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in two vcfi/vicAi£ .»'; 
• ■:••• 




Whoever professes to disclose from criminal 
records anything that has both importance and 
novelty to recommend it, will generally need no 
further excuse for offering it to the public. There 
can be no source of information more fruitful in 
incidents which have the attraction of picturesque- 
ness along with the usefulness of truth. In every 
country in which there is even a pretence of ad- 
ministering justice, the social circle where crime is 
to be sought and punished, is sniveled to a sudden 
and searching investigation of its ^kr^epts' ajad con- 
dition. The Asmodeus of the^Ja^jcatoheji ifefe/ 
group by surprise, ere it has/time/to/.y&l ijteelf 'hi/ 
conventionalities and adjust 'Ap^^Qice^ for 'pablic 
view. The administration of criminaf jp$tic£ #J may 
thus be said to cut to the very centre of society, and 
lay bare all its strata. Besides the reference of every 
criminal trial to some main central event, in which 
the passions and propensities of mankind are deve- 
loped in their most emphatic shape and deepest hue, 
each investigation reveals, collaterally, the social se- 
crets of the day — from the state-mysteries, guarded 
by the etiquette and policy of courts, down to those 


characteristics of humble life, which are removed 
from ordinary notice by their native obscurity. 

Under arbitrary laws, the knowledge thus ex- 
tracted is generally retained for generations in offi- 
cial secrecy, and may, or may not, be brought to 
light in subsequent ages, by persons who do not in- 
herit the original motives for concealment. But 
whether found in the mouldy registers of secret in- 
quiries, or developed in the broad daylight of a public 
trial, the details of such investigations are a great 
mine of impressive knowledge. The contents of the 
following pages have been drawn from both these 
sources. The author offers them to the public, under 
the impression that they develop remarkable social 
conditions, and throw new light on the secret im- 
pulses of historical .events ; but whether he has thus 
formed a jus^c*c}u\Ju^ion, is a question for others to 

decide/. \r«: - ;## 

made use of, had accumulated 
along with much other mis- 
cellatt&3^;m£$^/ Sn ## the pursuit of historical pro- 
jects. ?et£$TAg *to Scotland, which he hopes yet to 
realise". The authorities drawn from are indicated, 
here and there, in the usual manner. And it will 
be seen, that while some of them are yet in manu- 
script, several others, owing to the limited circle for 
whose use they have been printed, may be consi- 
dered as in the same condition to the world at large, 
however well they may be known to investigators 
in peculiar corners of Scottish history. 



If one were desired to point out upon the map, on 
no surer ground than the mere physical character 
of the country, that spot which must have been the 
main battle-field between the Celtic ra$ea living 
among the mountains, and the peopl§^of Saxon 
origin who tilled the plain, he jreptiid fcat^ndly 
point to the mass of broken mountains, clustering 
about Loch Lomond and Loch Catrine,.' which 
strike from the great mountain ranges of the north 
right into the most fertile plains and valleys of the 
south. In the more northern districts of Perthshire 
and the wilds of Inverness, the fastnesses of the 
Highland tribes were separated by dreary districts 
of undulating moors and low hills from the fields 
of their natural enemies, while the inhabitants of 

VOL. i. # B 


the isles and the far west were still more distant 
both from the field of plunder and the arm of the 
avenger. But the country of the Macgregors rises 
so abruptly from the rich plains of the Lenox and 
Menteith, that the untamed freebooter could look 
down from his mountain fastness into the bosom of 
that thriving industry in which he was to find his 
prey — could count the cattle which were destined 
for his spit, and watch the yellowing of the grain, 
from which he some day hoped to distribute bread 
among his hungry children, and cheer the idle 
winter with liberal cups of usquebah.. In a country 
where the transition from soft, alluvial, fertile fields 
to rocky inaccessible mountains is so sudden, the 
industrious -Stispty would keep to the one and the 
pred&tbiyjCelVib the other, as naturally as the but 
.••. .r i_ ^ ^m* i_i. and the tiger to the jungle. 

between the people of the 
pfcttn i * # ail4 VKofe'of 'the mountain is scarcely less dis- 
tft^f/tBan it was of old, though its colours have 
varied. The ancient spirit of predatory ferocity — 
the thirst for vengeance — the inextinguishable hatred 
and scorn of the civilised man and his ways, have long 
departed* But they have left — whether from poli- 
tical causes or peculiarity of race we need not here 
inquire— the inanimate body of their old barbarism, 
still unillunrined by the lights of advancing civilisa- 


tion. Pressed on by social progress in its most 
active and aggressive forms — frequented annually 
by swarms of tourists — studded with the villas of 
affluent lovers of mountain scenery — the dwellers 
in these regions preserve the sloth and listlessness 
of the tropical savage. The tourist on the top of 
a coach, crossing the Highland line near Doune or 
the Leven, feels as if some phantasmagoric change 
had taken place in human as well as inanimate 
nature. Up to the very entrance of the pass he 
has driven through high fanning, manufacturing 
activity, cleanness, independence, and affluence. 
From these he is at once introduced to a new lan- 
guage and a new people — to indolence, servility, 
and squalid filth. 

To their predatory occupants the mountain fast- 
nesses of Balquhidder and the Trossachs were all 
the more valuable from their vicinity to a rich 
industrious country — an advantage similar to that 
enjoyed by the German freebooters on their great 
navigable rivers, or by the highwayman who had 
his place of safety near a well-frequented road. The 
same circumstance would make the Lowlanders all 
the more resolute in their efforts to rid themselves 
of neighbours so unpleasant. As long, however, as 
there existed throughout the vast mountain districts 
of Scotland a race, half-independent, with arms in 


their hands, predatory habits, and a traditional 
hatred of the governing race, — so long was it in the 
nature of things that the southern frontier of the 
Highlands would be occupied by them. The two- 
fold character of the country, its inaccessible rug- 
gedness, and its close vicinity to tracts affluent in 
booty, made this a physical and moral necessity. 
Until the Highlanders were altogether subdued, 
the most dangerous and ferocious among them 
would be found precisely in this district. Hence 
came the ever deepening and ever vain ferocity of 
the war of extermination carried on for two cen- 
turies between the government and the Clan Gregor. 
The strange incidents by which it was traditionally 
surrounded have been spun into many a romantic 
tale and work of genius. But even from the au- 
thentic official documents in which the struggle is 
recorded, one may find a history as striking as it is 
solemn and instructive. 

It is unnecessary on this occasion to inquire into 
the truth of the traditionary histories which claim 
for the Macgregors a royal descent. They belonged 
to those tribes chiefly of Celtic, but partly of Norse 
origin, who carried on a long struggle with the 
monarchs of Lowland Scotland for the establishment 
of a separate nationality. The history of this 
struggle has yet to be written, in the spirit of those 


who can discharge from history conventionalisms 
about " establishing the authority of the law and the 
strength of the executive," and the like, which have 
a meaning in constructed and consolidated govern- 
ments, but have no more reference to the early chaotic 
elements from which nations have been gradually 
developed, than the orders of architecture have to 
the stratification of rocks. We need go no further 
into the question here, than to notice that the feel- 
ings of the Highlander and Lowlander towards each 
other were embittered by traditions of national 
conflict, ending in the subjugation of the one race 
by the other. If this feeling doubtless lingered, 
and that with considerable strength and vitality, 
down to the time when the Clan Gregor became so 
conspicuous in the statute-book and the criminal 
records, it became gradually aided and strengthened 
by another and even more powerful cause of 
animosity. It came to be the Lowlander's way of 
enjoying existence and the benefits which the 
material world afford, to labour and grow rich. The 
Highlander, on the other hand, found it more con- 
ducive to his taste and circumstances to watch his 
Lowland neighbour's accumulating wealth, and take 
possession of it for his own purposes when a suitable 
opportunity occurred. Between people whose views 
in life were so incompatible, there could be no more 
harmony and co-operation than between the shep- 


herd's dog and the wolf. The utilitarian objects of 
the attackers and defenders were, in reality, the main 
inspiration of the conflicts with the Macgregors; and 
thus, however picturesque they may seem in their 
bloody results, a certain air of nutritive homeliness 
— - a hungry hankering after bread and beef — is 
ever at the root of the conflict ; and recals Waverley's 
regret, that his romantic mission to a Highland out- 
law should have had no more heroic impulse than 
the recovery of the baron's stolen cattle. 

The earliest notice which we find of this pre- 
dominating propensity is in 1533, when Patrick 
MacCoule-Kere Macgregor, with his two brothers, 
" in company with sundry rebels of the Clan Gre- 
gor," are charged with stealing forty cows from the 
Earl of Menteith.* For some length of time the 
charges of such acts of " stouthrief," " spulzie," &c, 
became tiresomely uniform — the special heads of 
cattle thus " lifted" being enumerated and classified 
with the precision of the more recent species of. 
agricultural prize lists. 

But while the origin and main source of the 
fierce conflict with the law, recorded in the follow- 
ing pages, was unquestionably this vulgar, but all- 
powerful one — the desire of food and other useful 
plunder — it was accompanied by many incidents of 
pure savageness, one of which, however well it may 
* Ktcaim's Criminal Trials, i, 164. 


be already known to the reader, must be briefly 
mentioned. Some rievers liaving been caught and 
punished by Drummond, the king's deer-keeper, 
resolved on vengeance; and having waylaid Drum- 
mond, when occupied in providing venison for the 
festivals in honour of the reception of the Queen, 
Anne of Denmark, they cut off his head. Pro- 
ceeding homeward with their trophy, they sought 
the hospitality of Stewart of Ardvoirlich, whose 
wife was the murdered keeper's sister. Stewart 
being absent, his wife could offer them, as the legend 
proceeds, no better hospitality than bread and cheese. 
Offended by so sordid a feast — though in the High- 
lands it would seem, that at a much later date cheese 
was in the category of luxuries — the murderers, in 
savage sport, placed the keeper's head on the table, 
with a morsel of the bread and cheese in its mouth. 
The poor woman fled from the house distracted, and 
the murderers, conveying the head to the church of 
Balquhidder, the Macgregors there laid their hands 
on it, and solemnly swore to support the deed that 
had been done. If there had been any doubt of the 
truth of this legend, it would have been dispelled 
by Sir Walter Scott, who publishes in his notes to 
" The Children of the Mist," an act of the privy 
council in the year 1589, where it is narrated in 
foil; and the Clan Gregor are said to have "laid 


their hands upon the pow (poll or head), and in 
heathenish and barbarous manner swore to defend 
the authors of the said murder, in most proud con- 
tempt of our sovereign lord and his authority, and 
in evil example to other wicked liinmers to do the 
like, if this shall be suffered to remain unpunished." 

The remedy sought by the government against 
these depredations and outrages, consisted in 
strengthening the hands of the injured parties, and 
of all who hated the Macgregors, and hounding 
them on to vengeance. 

In a royal letter to the privy council, presented in 
November, 1611, the economy of the system which 
had then been in operation for nearly a century, is 
thus laid down on the highest authority. ( ( We send 
you now home the Earl of Argyle, to make an 
end according to his promise of that service which 
he hath already begun. ... As to the service itself, 
we are thus resolved, that as the connivance at 
those and the like malefactors might justly be ac- 
counted a great iniquity, so the utter extirpation 
of them all, and every one in particular, would be 
a work too troublesome. And therefore we have 
thought good on some to execute justice, and the 
rest to take to mercy; and as we will not have our 
justice satisfied with the meanest and basest persons, 
so we would have special choice made of the most 


notorious malefactors, to be an example thereof in 
this present business. For which effect we would 
have you to crave the advice, as well of the said 
Earl of Argyle, as of the gentlemen and others newt 
inhabiting unto them, and who have been most en- 
damaged by them, by whose information you may 
likewise learn what particular persons are most fit 
to be taken to mercy, and which not." In more 
than one of the proclamations there are reproachful 
complaints about the tardiness of those enemies of 
the Macgregors, who had " promised to go to the 
fields and enter in action and blood with them;" 
inciting them to exertion, and requiring " that 
they shall do some notable service against the 
Clan Gregor before his majesty be burdened with 
any charges in this service." 

This seemed a cheap and simple remedy, and a 
doubly efficacious one, once it not only set at work 
effective and powerful instruments for the extirpa- 
tion of the obnoxious tribe, but it kept in con- 
genial occupation restless spirits who might other- 
wise be flinging against the government, and 
sometimes ended successfully in the mutual exter- 
mination of two troublesome clans. Thus the house 
of Argyle, and several minor families, whose Low- 
land property suffered from the ravages of the moun- 
taineers, obtained commissions, or warrants, to attack, 


imprison, and slaughter them. Hie earliest of this 
series of warrants appears to occur in 1563. There is 
a quaint, foul-mouthedness about these documents. 
Our legislative and official phraseology was never 
complimentary to the Celts. In Ireland they were 
cosherers, tamers, tones, robbers, and rapparees. In 
Scotland they were limmers and Hidand thieves, or 
loons and sorners. One legislative expression had. 
become common to the two countries — " his ma- 
jesty's Irish rebels," or "his majesty's Hieland 
rebels," as the case might be. Against the persons 
thus stigmatised, the warrants, or licenses of civil 
war as they might perhaps be more justly called, 
gave those authorised to enforce them irresponsible 
powers — the right to pursue the people in all places 
and with all weapons — to seize them alive or dead r 
meaning to ensnare or slay them — to attack and 
destroy their houses, a privilege inferring the siege 
of places of strength, and the reckless destruction of 
the turf-houses of the ordinary people. The holder 
of such a warrant was not only entitled to hound 
out his own followers against the devoted clan, but He 
might call on every neighbour to aid him, and raise 
the whole district in which he lived to revenge 
their injuries, and fight out their hereditary feuds, 
as an acceptable service to the government. 

Afterwards there may be more to say about the ex- 


press terms of these warrants, when it will be found 
that they failed in accomplishing their object; in 
feet, it was an object that could not be accomplished* 
So long as the Celts bore arms, and preferred plun- 
der to industry, they would occupy those rocky 
fastnesses, so conveniently close to the choice fruits 
of Lowland industry. Nothing but the extinction 
of the whole race, or their subjugation to the peace- 
ful pursuit of the sheep-farmer, could prevent the 
most advantageous post for cattle stealing through-' 
out all the Highlands from being occupied by cattle- 
stealers, whether they called themselves Macgregor, 
or any other ortus regibw name. And hence came 
that system of persecution, ever increasing in in- 
genious cruelty, as every sanguinary effort failed, 
in such a fashion as ought to have taught think- 
ing men that success in the main object of their 
efforts was hopeless. 

The government did not even profess to select 
the instruments of its vengeance. Whoever desired 
to join in hunting the Macgregors had but to pay 
the usual fees for obtaining a commission of jus- 
ticiary to that end, when it was cheerfully handed 
over to him. The official expression came to be, 
that such a one had * purchased a commission of 
justiciary for pursuit of the Clan Gregor," just as a 
person is said to purchase a license for pursuit of 


also in respect of the great grudge and hatred 
standing likewise betwixt the said Laird of Ardin- 
caple and the said Robert, who having bereft his 
own mother, whom the said Laird of Ardincaple 
has now married of her whole living, he has by 
order of law recovered the same furth of his hands: 
for the which cause the said Robert seeks to have 
his advantage of him, has given up kindness, and 
denounced his evil will to him with solemn vows 
of revenge."* 

The ravages of the Macgregors came at length to 
a climax, in an event which figures in Scottish history 
as the battle of Glenfruin or the Raid of the Lennox. 
It makes its appearance 071 the criminal records in 
the trial of Alaster Macgregor of Glenstray , Duncan 
Pudrache Macgregor, and the owners of a varied 
list of similar names, arraigned before the court of 
justiciary on the 20th of January, 1604, for treason, 
stouthrief, and fire-raising. It was set forth that, 
" having concluded the destruction of Alexander 
Golquhoun, of Luss, his kin, friends, and alia, and 
the haill surname of the Buchanans, and to harrie 
their lands, they convened the Clan Chameron, the 
Clan Vourich, and divers other broken men and 
sorners,t to the number of four hundred men, or 

* Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, i., 390. 
t " Broken men " was an expression applied generally to all 
the Border and Highland depredators; but in its limited sense 


thereby, all bodin in feir of weir (*.e., set out in 
Warlike array) with hakbats, pistollettes, morions, 
mail-coats, poll-axes, two-handed swords, bows, 
darlochs, and other weapons." They were charged 
with putting to death seven score or 140 persons, in 
a partial list of whom there occurs the familiar 
name of Tobias Smollett, who was, it appears, bailie 
or civic magistrate of the town of Dumbarton* 

It is said by the annalists partial to the Mac- 
gregors, that they had no intention to commit any 
outrage — that they proceeded to Luss for the pur- 
pose of having an amicable and satisfactory arrange- 
ment of difficulties, and that they were treacherously 
and unexpectedly attacked by the Colquhouns. 
But Highland rievers did not generally march into 
the low country, four hundred strong, peaceably to 
adjust differences, any more than the highwaymen 
of later times presented pistols with the like object. 
Nor could the differences be very easily adjusted, 
since they consisted in the one party desiring the 

it applied to' those who had no chief or other person to stand 
surety for them. Somen or sojourners were those who had a 
general partiality for living at the expense of their neighbours. 
They are denounced in several acts of parliament, and one of 
the year 1455 provides that, " wherever somen be found in 
existence in time to come, that they be delivered to the king's 
sheriffs, and that forthwith the king's justices do law upon 
.them as upon a thief or never." This, it may be noticed, is an 
entire statue, and a favourable specimen of what Bacon called 
u the excellent taevi^y" of the old Scottish acts. 


cattle, horses, and miscellaneousproperty belonging to 
the other. On the other hand, the Macgregors were 
charged with atrocities, of which one would fain 
believe, in the absence of good evidence, that they 
were not guilty. " It is reported," says Sir Walter 
Scott, " that the Macgregors murdered a number 
of youths, whom report of the intended battle hfrd 
brought to be spectators, and whom the Colquhouns, 
anxious for their safety, had shut up in a barn to 
be out of danger. One account of the Macgregors 
denies this circumstance altogether; another ascribes 
it to the savage and bloodthirsty disposition of a 
sirfgle individual, the bastard brother of the Laird 
of Macgresror, who amused himself with this second 
massacre of the innocents, in express disobedience 
to the chief, by whom he was left their guardian 
during the pursuit of the Colquhouns."* But had 
such an episode occurred, we may rest sure that it 
would not have been passed over in the indictment, 
where there is no allusion to it. This document 
contains a sufficient number of atrocities. It states, 
that the greater part of the slaughter was among 
prisoners who had been " tane captives by the said 
Macgregors before they put violent hands on them, 
and cruelly slew them," and concludes with de- 
nouncing the whole as a series of " cruel, horrible, 

* Notes to the " Lady of the Lake." 


and treasonable crimes, the like whereof was never 
committed within this realm." 

.It was of course difficult then, as for a century 
and a half afterwards, to apprehend the Macgregors, 
either by penetrating to their wilds, or inducing 
them to trust themselves in the low country. One 
chronicler says, that Argyle, by fair promises, in- 
duced the chief to visit him during a festival, where 
lie was seized and bound. The castle where this 
took place stood on an island — probably it was Kii- 
churn Ctotle, in Loch Awe. As a boat was convey- 
ing the captive chief to the shore, he escaped, much 
after the same fashion as his representative Rob 
Boy in the novel, by tossing overboard the nearest 
of his keepers, and taking to the water.* If the 
accounts of his final recapture are to be credited, 
they would say more for the cunning than the can- 
dour of Argyle. The earl told the chief that if he 
surrendered himself he would be seen safe to Eng- 
land, or, as other authorities say, safe out of Scotland. 
Emissaries were sent to accompany him southward, 
ostensibly that they might protect him, a denounced 
criminal, from any king's messenger who might re- 
cognise in the fugitive the chief of a band of High- 
land ruffians, who had slain in one raid a hundred 
and forty Lowlanders. Highlanders were not at 

* MS. quoted, Pitcairo, it, 435. 
VOL. I. C 


that time the object of pleasant interest which Sir 
Walter Scott's novels and the performance of " Bob 
Boy " on the London stage have since made them. 
Near the borders of their mountain strongholds 
they were regarded with intense tefror ; further off, 
in the Lothians and in Fifeshire, they were looked 
upon as the Romans looked upon the captive Gauls. 
They were a people who had elsewhere a ferocity 
productive of bloody events, who had been tamed 
and stripped of all their danger ere they reached 
these distant spots, yet imparted a thrill of interest 
from association with their latent ferocity, as the 
tiger is interesting in his cage. Thus the Mac- 
gregor could not have well passed through the Lo- 
thians without annoyance. He accepted, therefore, 
in all kindness and faith, a convoy from Argyle, to 
see him into English ground. This convoy crossed 
the Tweed with the exiled chief, and having seen 
him into English ground, according to the compact 
with Argyle, were so complaisant as to see him 
back again into Scottish ground, seizing him and 
dragging him to the northern side of the Tweed, 
where certain coadjutors were ready to receive the 
betrayed chief. Some historians comment on this 
event as an instance of gross treachery. The pre- 
sent writer, not driven to the alternative of justify- 
ing or excusing Argyle, has only to say that he 


does not believe in the narrative of the incident. 
Lest he may be charged with mistelling the story 
to make it be discredited, it shall be told in the 
words of the best and briefest of the narrators of 
it, Sir James Balfour, the Lord Lyon: 

" The 2nd of October, this year, the notorious 
thief and rebel, Alaster Macgregor, Laird of Glen* 
strae,' who had escaped the Laird of Ardkinglase's 
hands, was taken by Archibald Earl of Argyle, who, 
before he would yield, had promised to him to 
convey him safe out of Scottish ground; to perform 
which promise, he caused some servants to convey 
him to Berwic, and besouth it some miles, and 
bring him back again to Edinburgh, where he was 
hanged with many of his kindred the 20th day of 

The chief, by way of distinction, was executed a 
" pin" or peg above the others. He left a confes- 
sion or declaration which found its way into the 
national archives. It consists mainly of a recrimi- 
nation against Argyle, whom he charges with being 
his Mephistophiles. This paper is, of course, worth 
no more as evidence than the other recriminations 
of malefactors ; but it is, at all events, curious. 
It commences thus: 

" I, Alaster Macgregor, of Glenstrae, confess here, 

* Annals of Scotland, edited by J. Haig, L, 415. 


before God, that I have been persuaded, moved, 
and enticed, as I am now presently accused and 
troubled for. Also, if I had used counsel or command 
of the man that has enticed me, I would have done 
and committed sundry high murders more. For, 
truly, since I was first his majesty's man,* I could 
never be at an ease by my Lord of Argyle's falsity 
and inventions. For he caused Maclaine and Clan- 
chameron to commit hership and slaughter in my 
roum (realm or domain) of Renochie, the whilk 
caused my poor men thereafter to beg and steal. 
Also, thereafter, he moved my brother and some of 
my friends to commit both hership and slaughter 
upon the Laird of Luss. Also, he persuaded my- 
self with message to war against the Laird of 
Buchanan, whilk I did refuse; for the whilk I was 
continually boasted that he would be my unfriend. 
And when I did refuse his desire on that point, 
then he enticed me with other messengers, as by the 
Laird of Macnachtane, and others of my friends, to 
war and trouble the Laird of Luss, which I behoved 
to do for his false boutgattis." This last word may 
be interpreted by circumventions. Thus, nothing 
but the insinuations of the subtle tempter Argyle, 
would have led his innocent, unsuspecting mind to 

* Alluding to his haying taken the oath, in 1596, to be " his 
majesty's household man." 


authorise a raid to obtain 600 oxen and 800 sheep 
and goats. The " confession,* as it is termed, pro- 
ceeds in the same strain, and becomes perplexed 
and tedious. In one part it would appear that he 
charges Argyle with a promise to spare himself, and 
only sacrifice part of the clan, and compel the rest 
to resign their name. " He did entice me with oft 
and sundry messages, that he would make my 
peace, and save my life and. lands, only to punish 
certain defaulters of my kin — and my innocent 
Mends to renounce their surname and live peace- 
ably. Upon the which conditions he was sworn by 
an oath to his friends; and they swore to me — and, 
also, I have his hand-writing and warrant there- 
upon." The confession winds up thus: 

"And now, seeing God and man sees it is 
greedyness of worldly gear which causes him to 
putt at me and my kin, and not the weal of the 
realm, nor to pacify the same, nor to his majesty's 
honour — but to put down innocent men — to cause 
poor bairns and infants to beg — and poor women to 
perish for hunger when they are bereft of their gear. 
The which, I pray God that these faults light not 
upon his majesty hereafter, nor upon his succession. 
Wherefore, I would beseech God that his majesty 
knew the verity — that at this hour I would be con- 
tent to take banishment with all my kin that was at 


the Laird of Luss's slaughter, and all others of 
them that any fault can be laid to their charge — and 
his majesty of his mercy to let poor innocent men 
and young bairns pass to liberty, and learn to live 
as innocent men. The whilk I would fulfil but any 
kind of fail; whilk would be more to the will of 
God and his majesty's honour, nor the greedy, cruel 
form that is devised, only for the love of gear, having 
neither respect to God or honesty."* 

Those who have been engaged in Indian war or 
diplomacy know with what almost miraculous skill 
the oriental semi-savage, exposed and detected in 
his wiles, can assume the aspect of the simple, 
dejected victim of other men's craft and ambition. 
The criminal of civilised life is less successful, because 
he is less self-supported — his conscience misgives 
him, or he, at all events, feels himself too clearly 
seen through to believe that there is anything worth 
struggling for in great efforts of hypocrisy. But 
among some half-civilised races, it is but a hopeful 
exertion in a part of the discipline to which they 
are trained, to fawn and flatter, and plead injured 
innocence in the hour of adversity. Two other 
great Highland chiefs — Lovat, and the old Lord 
Breadalbane whose name is associated with Glencoe, 
were adepts in this mystery; and Macgregor of 
* Pttcairn, ii, 435. 


Glenstrae appears to have been no despicable per- 
former. The belief in the thorough perfidy of his 
confession does not render it necessary to infer that 
either the government or Argyle held perfect faith 
with him. They would have thought it as pre- 
posterous as to offer a fair field to a hunted wolf. . 

The extreme difficulty of bringing the wild free- 
booters face to face with justice, is often shown in 
the number of years elapsing between the time of 
the offence and the day of trial. For twenty years 
after it occurred, there is a dropping series of trials 
relating to the field of Glenfruin. In one strange 
instance, an ally of the clan is indicted for " the 
cruel murder and burning of eighteen householders 
of the Clan Laren, their wives and bairns, com- 
mitted forty-six years since, or thereby. Item, for 
art and part of the slaughter of umwhile Hugh 
Stewart, servant to my Lord of Atholl, committed 
thirty years past, or thereby."* From the same 
cause — the extreme difficulty of apprehending any 
of the perpetrators, the criminal records contain but 
faint and indistinct allusions to the invasions of the 
outlaws, only sufficient to show that they must 
have been a frightful scourge to the surrounding 
districts. On the 28th of July, 1612, a consider- 
able band of them was brought up for trial. The 
• Pitcairn, ii., 440. 


measures for suppressing the name of Macgregor, to 
be afterwards noticed, had then been passed, and 
their futility is oddly enough illustrated by the 
first name on the list, which is " Gregor Beg 
Macgregor." The crimes with which they were 
charged are a strange mixture of the sordid and the 
sanguinary, as the following specimens, stripped of 
the lists of unpronounceable names with which they 
are entwined, may show. The chief matters of accu- 
sation are — " the treasonable raising of fire, burning 
and destroying the whole houses and buildings 
of Glenlocha and Achaleder; the slaughter of 
Maccallean, bowman to the Laird of Glenurquhy, 
with divers other persons, to the number of eight 
persons; stealing of six score kine and oxen forth 
of Gienlyon, committed in April, 1604; burning 
and destroying of the whole houses and biggings 
upon the forty merk land of Aberurchil, pertaining 
to Colin Campbell ; burning of three young bairns, 
daughters of John Mackessock; stealing and away* 
taking of eighteen score cows, six score piece (or 
head) of horses, eight score sheep and goats, per- 
taining to the said Colin, and likewise for burning 
of the mill of Bolquhaster, with the whole houses 
and biggings upon the ground and lands, &c.; the 
stealing and away-taking furth of Glenfinlas of a 
great hership (plunderage) of kine and oxen, per- 


taining to the Laird of Luss and his tenants; the 
slaughter of umwhile John Reid, weaver, and Pa- 
tric Lang, servant to the Lord of Luss; for stealing 
and away-taking of a great number of goods, per- 
taining to my Lord Ogelvie, furth of Glenisla; and 
such like for taking and keeping of the island 
called the Island of Varnoch, against his majesty's 
commissioner; and harrying and oppressing of the 
whole tenants and inhabitants of the country about, 
taking and in-bringing of their whole goods and 
bestial, to the number of eight score kine and oxen, 
eighteen score sheep and goats, whilk were eaten 
and slain by them within the said island." 4 In a 
subsequent indictment, a parcel of the same band 
are charged with art and part of the stealing of 
certain kine and horses belonging to Walter Stir- 
ling of Ballagan ; " art and part of the slaughter of 
John Macgilliss, a fiddler, under my Lord of Tulli- 
bardine; the stealing of two horses from Macin- 
nerich of Cregan, and breaking of ane poor man's 
house in Einaldie ; taking of the said poor man and 
binding up his eyes, and stealing and away-taking 
of the whole plenishing of the said house; stealing 
of a cow from Donald Macconnell; being in com- 
pany with Duncan Macewan Macgregor, called the 
Tutor, at the burning of Aberurchel, where seven 

* Pitcaira, iii, 232. 


men were slain, three bairns were burnt, twenty 
kine and oxen were stolen, reft, and away-taken ; 
assisting and taking part with the rebels and fugi- 
tives that took to the isle called Island Varnoch, 
and taking into the said isle of eight score kine and 
oxen, eighteen score sheep and goats, stolen, reft, 
and away -taken from the inhabitants of the country 
about." Finally, they are charged with " common 
theft, sorning, and oppression/' The '" said island," 
where so much stolen beef and mutton was con- 
sumed, is no other than " the Lonely Isle" of the 
" Lady of the Lake," where 

" The wild rose, eglantine, and broom, 
Wasted around their rich perfume; 
The birch trees waved in fragrant balm, 
The aspens slept beneati} the calm." 

The use made of the island as a safety retreat by 
the Macgregors, or Clan Alpine, in their hour of 
need, is indeed the legend round which the beauti- 
ful fictions of the poem are twined; and the critic of 
Scott's poetry will be glad to obtain this little insight 
to the habits of those who frequented so interest- 
ing a spot. We hear more of Island Varnoch 
in the desperate attempts by the privy couhcil to 
surround and exterminate the "sorners and lim- 
mers." A proclamation, issued against them within 
three months after the battle of Glenfruin, required 
them to renounce their name, " and take to them 


some other name, and that they and none of their 
posterity should call themselves Gregor or Mao- 
gregor thereafter under pain of death;" and this was 
confirmed on the ground that " the simple name of 
Macgregor did encourage that whole clan to pre- 
sume of their power, force, and strength, and did 
encourage them, without reverence of the law or 
fear of punishment, to go forward in their ini- 

A whole series of denunciatory acts, intended to 
hem the clan closer and closer in with enemies, 
began in 1610. On the 6th of September, the 
council announce that the extermination of the 
barbarous thieves and limmers is in such excellent 
hands, " that some good and happy mean is expected 
in that errand." But a fear is expressed lest they 
may have recourse to their old tricks, when thus 
hemmed in, and may make their escape by the 
lochs. All those who have boats on Loch Lomond, 
Loch Goyle, and Loch Long, are therefore pro- 
hibited from assisting in the flight of the Macgre- 
gors, their wives, or children* Those who allow 
them a passage on any pretence whatever, are to 
be counted abettors in their wicked deeds, and 
punished with the utmost rigour. The efforts to 
cut off their flight seem to have been effectual, for 
we find that they stood at bay in the safety retreat 


on the island in Loch Catrine. " They have now," 
says the next proclamation, " amassed themselves 
together, in the isle of the loch of Loch Catrine, 
which they have fortified with men, victual, powder, 
bullets, and other warlike furniture, intending to 
keep the same as a place of war and defence, for 
withstanding and resisting of his majesty's forces 
appointed to pursue them. And seeing there is 
now some solid and substantious course and order 
set down how these wolves and thieves may be 
pursued within their own den and hole by the 
force and power of some of his majesty's faithful 
and well-affected subjects, who freely have under- 
taken the service, and will prosecute the same with-* 
out any private respect or consideration, — necessary 
it is for the execution of this service that the whole 
boats and birlings being upon Loch Lomond be 
transported from the said loch to the loch foresaid 
of Loch Catrine, whereby the forces appointed for 
the pursuit of the said wolves and thieves may be 
transported into the said isle, which cannot goodly 
be done but by the assistance of a great number of 
people." The whole inhabitants of the neighbour* 
ing counties between sixteen and sixty are required 
to assemble for this strange labour. The Norwe- 
gians, in ravaging the west coast, dragged their 
galleys across the narrow low isthmus of Tarbet, 


that they might more easily plunder the shores of 
Loch Lomond; but here it was proposed to drag 
the vessels over a mountain tract of five miles! 
But all was in vain. The next proclamation an- 
nounces their escape, and heartily abuses those who 
had undertaken to exterminate them, since there is 
" not so much as ane mint or show of pursuit in* 
tended against them, but the undertakers, every 
one in their several discourses, doing what in them 
lies to vindicate themselves from all imputation of 
sloth, negligence, or neglect of duty in that point, 
highly to his majesty's offence, and fostering of the 
liznmers in their rebellion and wicked deeds.' 1 

One of the acts of council passed in 1611 
prohibited those living in the countries near the 
Highlands from selling arms to Highlanders without 
special authority, " to the effect, it may be clearly 
understood, that the said armour is not for the use 
or behoof of the Clan Gregor." A further effort was 
made to take edge tools out of these mischievous 
hands by a proclamation of 1613, " That no 
person or persons whatsoever who are called Mao 
gregors, and keep that name, and profess and avow 
themselves to be of that name, shall at no time 
hereafter bear nor wear any armour but a pontless 
knife to cut their meat, under the pain of death." In 
the same year, another proclamation required that \ 



none of the Clan Gregory even though they had 
renounced their name, should convene and meet 
together in any part of the kingdom in greater 
number than four persona. These acts or procla- 
mations were afterwards ratified by the estates of 
parliament, — they " remembering how that his 
sacred majesty being very justly moved with a 
hatred and detestation of the barbarous murders 
and insolencies committed by the Ckn Grego* 
upon Iris majesty's peaceful and good subjects." 

Along with these exterminating measures, there 
are, as it were, tracks of blood through the council 
minutes, showing that they sometimes met with 
a horrible success. In the disposal of captives, 
Argyle is allowed for his services " three or four 
of their lives," if he desire to spare so many, but 
" for the rest of those that come in will (that is, 
have surrendered), if any of them have killed a 
Macgregor as good as himself — two, three, or four 
of them which in comparison may be equal to him 
— and assuredly known to bo his deed, his majesty 
is pleased lie have a remission, with the other three 
or four which his majesty has granted to the Earl 
of Argyle, providing also that they find sufficient 
security for keeping of good order in time coming, 
and such sureties as shall content the council. And 
t such as are come in will, and done no service by 


killing of the Macgregors, nor cannot find sufficient 
surely — that then the law to have his due course, 
and no favour at all to be shown. 

" For such as are yet rebels and outlaws, after 
the council has considered of the roll presented 
unto them by my Lord Argyle, that there be no 
pardon granted unto any nor taken in will, unless 
he present a better head — at least one as good as his 
own— or such two, three, or more as shall be en- 
joined to him by the efouncil. And for Robert 
Arroch, who is now chief of those who are pre- 
sently out, that he be not pardoned unless he bring 
in at least half a dozen of their heads." 

In the same spirit are the arrangements for the 
women and children. The wives were to be branded 
on the face with a red-hot key. They and their 
young were to be put at the disposal of the council, 
and any one harbouring them was to be treated as 
a Macgregor. The council intended " thereafter to 
dispose of them so as they shall think best for re- 
pressing such a generation, that they never come to 
such a head of insolency again." The partisans of 
the clan, who were spared, were required to live 
within the county of Fife, that being the district of 
Scotland deemed furthest from any temptation to 
resume their old freebooter habits. In 1612 the 
council congratulated itself that the Macgregors 


still remaining at large, were "but unworthy, poor, 
miserable bodies." Yet within ten years, — in' 1621, 
the council are as deeply perplexed as ever, and find 
that " whereas there is now a new brood and gene- 
ration of this clan risen up, which daily increases in 
number and force, and are begun to have their 
meetings, and goes in troops athwart the country 
armed with all offensive weapons, and some of the 
leaders of them, who once gave their obedience and 
found caution, are broken loose, and have com- 
mitted sundry disorders in the country;" and then, 
getting more eloquent and indignant, the council 
denounce them thus: u Preferring the beastly trade 
of blood, theft, reiff, and oppression, wherein unhap- 
pily they were brought up, to law and justice, they 
have broken loose, and have associated to them a 
number of the young brood of that clan who are 
now risen up, and with them they go in troops and 
companies athwart the country, armed with bows, 
darlochs, hacbuts, pistolets, and other armour, com- 
mitting a number of insolencies upon his majesty's 
good subjects in all parts where they may be mas- 
ters, and they do what in them lies to stir up the 
whole clan to a new rebellion, highly to his ma* 
jesty's offence, and the contempt and hurt of his 
good subjects." 
His majesty, in fact, as represented by his own 


council, appears to have been both perplexed and 
infuriated into a fit of impotent railing, since, in 
the midst of some laudations on his own great cle- 
mency, we find him thus crying out in the minutes 
of the council: "Forasmuch as the king's ma- 
jesty having tane great pains and travails, and be- 
stowed great charges and expenses for suppressing 
of the insolencies of the lawless limmers of the clan, 
whilk. formerly was called Clan Gregor, and for 
reducing of them to obedience; and his majesty, in 
4 his just wrath and indignation against the whole 
race, having abolished the name thereof as most 
infamous, and not worthy to be heard of in a 
country subject to a prince, with majesty, power, and 
force to execute vengeance upon such wretched and 
miserable caitiffs as dare presume to lift their heads 
and offend against his majesty and his laws," &c. 

In the year 1630 the records of the council show 
that they have come back to the same subject — as 
far as ever from their proposed end, but not less 
indignant and vituperative. After a long head-roll 
of the chief offenders, who are as usual denominated 
lawless limmers, it is stated, that they have united 
themselves with other broken clans to renew their 
accustomed and wicked trade of theft and stou- 
thrief, wherein* they are tauntingly informed that 
numbers of their wicked and miserable predecessors 

VOL. I. D 


ended their lives. They go, as of old, in troops 
athwart the heads of Menteith and Stratherne, 
where they not only commit private depredations 
but open ravages, threatening with fire and sword 
such of his majesty's good subjects against whom 
they have quarrel, and who profess to oppose and 
resist their- thievish and lawless doings. " Where- 
through," continue the bewildered privy council, 
" the peace of the country is far disturbed, and his 
majesty's good subjects distressed in their persons 
and goods, to the great contempt of law and jus- 
tice, and disgrace of his majesty's authority and 
government. And whereas it is a great discredit 
to the country that such an infamous bike (or hive) 
of lawless limmers shall be suffered to break loose, 
as if his majesty's arm of justice were not able to 
overtake; therefore/' &c. And- so follow new 
authorities to the enemies of the clan " to besiege 
their strengths with fire and all kinds of warlike 
engines, that justice may be ministrate unto them." 
The besiegers and pursuers are affectionately desired 
to set themselves steadily to the work before thein, 
without heeding collateral consequences; and what- 
ever mutilation, slaughter, " or other inconve- 
nience," to any of the king's lieges may occur in the 
conflict, the inflicter is to suffer no pain or penalty 
for it, but to be held as having done good service. 


And so the denunciation proceeds in terms seeking 
to be new, but bearing so tedious a uniformity of 
character to those previously adopted, that the 
council had evidently exhausted every form of wrath 
and vengeance in its previous efforts, and was all 
vainly grasping at something new.* 

The council having exhausted all its efforts in 
vain, it was probably considered a happy thought to 
try what parliament could do, as the rector's au- 
thority is resorted to when the birches of the ushers 
have failed to infuse a salutary awe. In 1633 was 
passed an "act anent the Clan Gregor." This 
act does little more than ratify the denunciations of 
the council in the same indignant phraseology; and 
we need not dwell on its contents, as they can be 
seen at length in the Scottish statute-book. It im- 
posed penalties on clergymen christening infants 
with the name of Gregor, and on notaries employ- 
ing the surname of the clan in legal documents. 

A provision was made for the clan coming one 
by one to the privy council, and finding security for 
their good behaviour. But the sorners and limmers 
believed in a punic faith which they had no Roman 
virtue to sacrifice themselves to ; and they prudently 
declined to go below the passes. Next year we find 

* Becorda of the Privy Council of Scotland, MS., General 
Begiater House. 



the privy council at work again as hopelessly as ever. 
An excellent and reasonable act has, they assure the 
country, been passed in his majesty's last parliament, 
permitting the limmers to make their appearance 
before the lords of his majesty's privy council, and 
there find security for their good behaviour; " and 
though it was expected," continue my lords, with 
much simplicity, " thatUhose of the Clan Gregor 
should have embraced his majesty's favour shown 
unto them, and should have given their compearance 
before his majesty's council to the effect foresaid, 
yet few or none of them has compeared, but has 
neglected their duty and obedience in that point." 
The council profess . themselves " loath to take that 
advantage of the said clan which their contempt and 
disobedience deserves;" and so they give the limmers 
another opportunity of coming to Edinburgh and 
finding security, before relaunching against them 
those efforts of vengeance which previous experience 
had shown to be so hopeless. 

At this time the clan possessed a brigand leader, 
who obtained more contemporary fame than even 
his celebrated successor, Rob Roy. His name was 
Patrick Macgregor ; but he was known to fame by 
the descriptive epithet of Grilroy, or Gilderoy, the 
^ed Gilly or youth. He has been celebrated both 
prose and rhyme. A well-known and long 


popular ballad, which laments the untimely fate of 
so many virtues and accomplishments, commences 

" Gilderoy was a bonny boy, . 

Had roses till his shoon; 
His stockings were of silken soy, 

Wi' garters hanging down. 
It was, I ween, a comely sight 

To see sae trim a boy; 
He was my joy and heart's delight, 

My handsome Gilderoy. 

" sic twa charming een he had, 

Breath sweet as any rose; 
He never wore a Hieland plaid, 

But costly, silken clothes. 
He gained the love of ladies gay, 

Nane e'er to him was coy. 
Ah! wae is me, I mourn the day 

For my dear Gilderoy." 

This is a somewhat Arcadian sketch of the red- 
haired Highland riever; but truth glimmers through 
the poetry of the widow's lament as it proceeds, and 
develops that propensity to convert tuum into meum, 

which was at the root of all the woes of the Mac- 

" My Gilderoy, baith far and near, 

Was feared in every town, 
And bauldly bore away the gear 

Of many a Lowland loon. 
For man to man durst meet him nane, 

He was so brave a boy; 
At length wi' numbers he was tane, 

My winsome Gilderoy. 


" Wae worth the louns that mode the laws, 

To hang a man for gear, 
To reave of life for sic a cause 

As stealing horse or mare! 
Had not their laws been made sae strick, 

I ne'er had lost my joy; 
Wi' sorrow ne'er had wat my cheek 

For my dear Gilderoy." 

We shall now turn to a portrait of this hero in 
harsher, but rather more truthful colours. The 
reader may, or may not, be acquainted with a folio 
volume, illustrated with a few grotesque engravings 
imitated from Hogarth, and called, " History of 
the most famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Rob- 
bers, and Pirates, with their Trials." The funda- 
mental element of the book is the history of con- 
temporary crimes and criminals while highway 
robbery was at its climax ; and many a time have 
these coarse but truthfully-impressive narratives of 
crime, prolonged the lingering of the absorbed group 
around the winter hearth, and disturbed their sleep 
by fashioning the casual midnight sounds into the 
creaking of timber beneath a furtive tread, or the 
stifled groan of some victim of the knife. But he 
who desires to consult this emporium of crime, 
must find the earliest and rarest edition,* since, in 
those of later date, many of the most grotesque and 
strange narratives have been, for some -purpose or 
* London, 1784. 


other, suppressed. Among these there are a few 
which, like the memoir of Gilderoy, relate to a 
time and country which were not those of the 
author, and to social conditions which he neither 
knew nor could accurately imagine. Though in 
these the falsehood largely predominates over the 
truth, yet the very grotesqueness of their anachron- 
isms, like pictures of Garrick acting Macbeth in a 
laced waistcoat and powdered wig, make them 
curious and amusing. Some of these grotesque 
sketches relate to Scotsmen, and among them is a 
memoir of the illustrious Gilderoy* 

The mountain freebooter is converted into an 
English highwayman. Tradition marked him as 
a man of family, and therefore Johnson makes him 
pass into his career of vice through the same pro- 
cess which might bring a well-connected young 
miscreant of Yorkshire or Cheshire to the highway. 
Thus — " His father died just as he was of age, 
when, leaving him an estate of 80 marks a year, he 

* Among Captain Johnson's Scottish ruffians, there is a cer- 
tain Sawney Beane, an antbropophagist, the patriarch of an ex- 
tensive clan or progeny—for they were all descended from him- 
self—who lived in a vast cavern, and fed on human flesh. The 
memoir is accompanied with aa appropriate plate, representing 
Sawney at the month of his cavern, looking abroad for victims, 
while a female descendant conveys two human legs within the 
cavern to be put in pickle. The gang, it appears, were not 
discovered until the extent of their appetites produced a sen- 
sible effect on the national census. 


thought himself fully capable to the management of 
it without the advice of his friends, by which 
means he, in short, managed it all away, and ran 
through it in about a year and a half; upon which 
he soon became very needy, and a fit subject to be 
moulded into any shape which had an appearance 
of profit. Having thus, by his irregularities, re- 
duced himself to a very poor condition, he was very 
burdensome to his mother, who often supplied him 
with money out of her jointure, which he always 
quickly consumed; but she, perceiving that no 
good admonitions would reclaim his extravagancy, 
withheld her hand, and would not answer his ex- 
pectation ; whereupon, lying at her house one night, 
he arose, entered his mother's bed-chamber! cut her 
throat with a razor, and then plundered and burnt 
the house lo the ground." 

His next adventure is of a totally different cha- 
racter, and has probably been borrowed from some 
French novel or adventures of Cartouche. We 
are to suppose him dressed like a courtier, and 
attending in the royal church of St. Denis, while 
Richelieu performs high mass in presence of the 
king. Gilderoy, having a design on the cardinal's 
purse, winks to his majesty to secure his connivance 
at a good joke, while the purse is abstracted. The 
king witnesses the operation with great satisfaction, 


and does his part by stepping up to the cardinal, 
and desiring to be accommodated with a trifling 
sum of money, when the loss is, of course, dis- 
covered. " The king, knowing which way it went, 
was more than ordinarily merry; until, being tired 
with laughter, he was willing that the cardinal 
might have again what was taken from him. The 
king thought that he who took the money was an 
honest gentleman, and of some account, as he kept 
his countenance so well; but Gilderoy had more 
wit than to come near them, for he acted not in 
jest, but in good earnest. Then the cardinal turned 
all the laughter against the king, who, using his 
common oath, swore, by the faith of a gentleman, 
it was the first time that ever a thief had made him 
his companion. 1 ' 

The feats attributed by this authority to Gilderoy 
in his own country are not less remarkable and 
eccentric. He seems to have anticipated, in a 
highly tragic form, the idea of that constable who, 
according to Scott, placed his boy in the unoccu- 
pied stocks at the gate of Glammis Castle for the 
sake of uniformity, because there was a vagrant 
stocked on the other side of the gate. Three of 
his followers had been condemned, executed, and 
hung in chains. According to a common practice, 
the scaffold from which the rotting bodies were 


suspended was circular and wheel-shaped, and was 
fixed on the top of a strong beam, passing into the 
central socket like an axle. In Captain Johnson's 
words, it " was made like a turnstile, only the 
beams on each end of which is nailed a strong iron 
hook to which the rope is fastened, has no motion." 
Now the gallows was adapted for four; but there 
were only three hanging on it, and the general 
effect of the tragic exhibition was unsymmetrical. 
The judge who had condemned the three to death 
being on his way towards Aberdeen, where he was 
to hold a circuit court of justiciary, was attacked 
and taken captive by the outlaw leader. Deli- 
berating on the proper destination of so precious a 
spoil, a savage impulse of practical sarcasm prompted 
him to complete the quadrangular uniformity of 
the gallows by there hanging the judge, and he 
did so accordingly. The mangled use of Scottish 
language, phraseology, and names, shows that 
Johnson's history is by no means entirely imaginary. 
It must have been founded on native authority, 
and is probably a decoration of the narrative con- 
tained in some contemporary chap book. He 
concludes thus his account of the comic tragedy: — 
" 'Now/ said Gilderoy to the judge, i by my soul, 
mon, as this unlucky structure, erected to break 
people's craigs, is not uniform without a fourth 


person taking his lodging here too, I must e'en 
hang you upon the vacant beam.' Accordingly 
he was as good as his word; and for fear the go- 
vernment should not know who was the hangman, 
he sent a letter to the ministers of state to acquaint 
them with his proceedings. This insolence caused 
the legislature to contrive ways and means to sup- 
press the audaciousness of Gilderoy and his com- 
panions, who were dreaded far and near ; and 
among them, one Jennet, a lawyer, promoted the 
law for hanging a highwayman first and judging 
him afterwards ; which law being approved of, it 
received the sanction of the government without 
any contradiction, and was often put in force 
against gentlemen of the road." 

The invention of " one Jennet, a lawyer," is a 
ridiculous enough gloss on the term Jeddert justice, 
or the practice of the citizens of Jedburgh, who 
had the reputation of rigorously and impartially 
investigating the charges against an enemy from the 
English border after they had put him to death. 

But some passages in Captain Johnson's history 
are more veritable and life-like. Thus — " In a 
little time his name became so dreaded through the 
whole country, that travellers were afraid to pass 
the roads without a great many in company. And 


when money was short with him, he would enter 
into Atholl, Lochaber, Angus, Mar, Buquhan, Mur- 
ray, Sutherland, and other shires in the north of 
Scotland, and drive away the people's cattle, unless 
they paid him contribution, which they did quar- 
terly, and had his protection." 

One feat attributed by the captain to his hero is 
so remarkable, that it must be conveyed in his own 

" When Oliver Cromwell embarked at Don- 
nachadee, in the north of Ireland, and landed at 
Portpatrick in Scotland, the news thereof came to 
Gilderoy, who was then lurking in the shire of 
Galloway; accordingly, he met him on the road 
towards Glasgow. Cromwell having only two ser- 
vants with him, he commanded him to stand and 
deliver; but the former, thinking three to one was 
odds, refused to obey. They then came to an en- 
gagement, and several pistols were discharged on 
both sides for nearly a quarter of an hour, when 
the bold robber pretended to yield his antagonists 
the day, by running as fast as he could from them. 
They pursued him very closely for near half an 
hour; and then, suddenly turning upon them, the 
first mischief he did was shooting Oliver's horse, 
which, falling on its side as soon as wounded, 


broke the Protector's leg. As for his servants, he 
shot one of them through the head, and the other 
begging quarter, it was granted. But Oliver being 
disabled, he had the civility to put him on an 
ass, and, tying his legs under his belly, sent them 
both to seek their fortunes." 

The captain proves nothing by this narrative 
but his 'acquaintance with the legend of the Horatii 
and his Royalist predilections, which had induced 
him to place old Noll in a ludicrous position. If 
the story could command a moment's credit, it 
would immediately be contradicted by dates, since, 
in the succinct words of old Spalding's Chronicle, 
u Gilderoy, with five other limmers, were taken, 
and all hanged to the death," on the 29th. of July, 
] 638 — a time when Cromwell, an embarrassed young 
country gentleman, was more likely to be found 
attempting to emigrate to America, than returning 
with bloody laurels from Ireland. 

Gilderoy commanded a large and formidable 
band. Their operations were not confined to the 
Lenox and other cultivated straths immediately 
adjoining the country of the Macgregors, but had 
a range of some hundreds of miles along the coun- 
try which had the misfortune to border on the 
Grampian mountains. Wherever there was negli- 
gent watching of the cattle, or disputes and dis- 


turbances, the freebooter would pounce on the de- 
voted spot and relieve it of its animal inhabitants. 
Several of his gang were taken and executed before 
he could be caught. "Thir loons," says Spald- 
ing, " were taken by the Stewarts of Atholl, by 
persuasion and advice of the Lairds of Craigievar 
and Corse, whereof there were seven hanged alto- 
gether at the Cross of Edinburgh, and their heads 
set up in exemplary places. The eighth man got 
his life, because it was confessed he was drawn to 
this service against his will. Gilderoy seeing this 
— his men taken and hanged — went and burnt up 
some of the Stewarts' houses in Atholl, in recom- 
pense of this injury."* 

The fortune of apprehending the leader fell to 
the old enemy of his tribe, Argyle. On the 7th of 
June, 1636, the privy council find that he, " out of 
zeal and affection for his majesty's service and peace of 
the country, has carefully bestirred himself, and now 
in end successively taken the arch-rebel Patrick Mao 
gregor, alias Gilroy, with some of his accomplices, 
by whom his majesty's good subjects in the High- 
lands and north parts of this kingdom has been 
this long time bygone heavily infested in their 
persons and goods." It is found that he "has be- 
haved himself »as a generous and loyal subject, and 
* Memorials of the Troubles in Scotland; L, 69. 


that he has done good, real, and acceptable service 
to his majesty and the state." 

The charge against Gilderoy very much resem- 
bles those which we have already seen against his 
predecessors. Plunder is at the root of all, and 
bloodshed follows as an accidental condition of the 
accomplishment of the main object. After so much 
royal and official exultation at the capture of the 
rebel and traitor, the indictment, commencing with 
the charge of " usurpation of our sovereign lord's 
power and authority," sets forth particulars which 
might be held to fall short both of the solemnity 
and the atrocity of the general charge. Thus one 
of the specific accusations in the indictment is — 
" Item, for art and part of the theftuous stealing of 
four hens, about Lambmass, 1635, pertaining to the 
goodman of Colquharnie." It was probably dif- 
* ficult to find evidence of the specific acts of outrage, 
and necessary not to lose sight of any that could be 
proved, however insignificant. After an enumera- 
tion of depredations, rather more important in their 
character, and embracing a tedious list of cows, 
oxen, horses, furniture, goods and gear, insight 
plenishing, rents and evidents, &c., with casual acts 
of kidnapping and slaughter, there is a general 
charge " for corning with your accomplices these 
three years bygone through the whole bounds of 


Strathspey, Bracmar, Cromar, and countries there** 
about, oppressing the whole common and poor 
people, violently taking and riveing from them of* 
their meat, drink, and all provision, with their 
whole goods, &c, and for common theft and reset 
of theft." The record bears that Gilderoy and 
his band were convicted on their own confession, 
which, as they could not speak in any language 
intelligible to the court, was interpreted by Stewart 
of Ardvoirlich. Confession is a strange and unac- 
countable act for such men spontaneously to commit 
in the full assurance of the gallows, and one cannot 
help suspecting that there must have been foul play in 
this matter. Along with a coadjutor named Forbes, 
Gilderoy enjoyed the honour of the gibbet on which 
they were hanged being raised " one great degree 
higher nor the gibbet whereon the rest shall suffer." 
His head and hand were affixed on the east or" 
nether-bow port of Edinburgh. 

Thirty years now elapse ere another distinguished 
leader of the clan gives work to the hangman. On 
the 25th of March, 1667, Patrick Roy Macgregor 
was brought to trial for theft, sorning, wilful fire- 
raising, robbery, and murder. He was at the head 
of a band of desperate banditti, numbering about 
forty. His latest exploit was an attack almost of 
the nature of a siege, made on the small town of 


Keith, in Banflshire, at which he was wounded and 
made prisoner. The deed for which he was tried 
was a midnight attack on the house of Bellkirrie, 
and the murder of its inmates, Lion of Muiress 
and his son. The elder victim appears to have 
secured the vengeance of the banditti, by having 
brought some of them to punishment for sorning on 
his lands. His own house was perhaps not so ac- 
cessible as Bellkirrie; for the news of his visit to his 
son there, seems to have put the band of freebooters 
in immediate motion. The indictment charges 
the murderers with having accepted a capitulation 
from the victims, with a condition that their lives 
were to be spared. Patrick Roy did not confess 
the deed, like his predecessor of greater notoriety; 
and the records therefore contain the substance of 
the evidence against him. 

James Urquhart, of Camishum, the principal 
witness, stated that, while Muiress was with his son, 
hearing that the freebooters were in the neighbour- 
hood, they took care to house the horses and cattle. 
The whole household had gone to bed when Roy 
commenced his attack. The building was low, and 
thatched; and when the besiegers had collected a 
quantity of straw from the barn-yard, and " built 
it," as the witness describes, round the house, the 
inmates were first awakened to a sense of their 

VOL. I. « B 


danger by a circle of stifling flames, from which 
there was no escape, save into the hands of their 
enemies, surrounding the house to the number of 
eighteen or twenty. This witness spoke distinctly 
to the stipulation on which the inmates yielded. 
" And after Muiress and those that were with him 
had come out of the house, they (the freebooters) 
did seize upon and take away the horses to the 
number of Ave or six, and their arms — and that 
Roy took and did wear Muiress's own buff coat and 
his carbine — -that they did carry away with them 
Muiress and his son, and those that were with him, 
on Muiress's own horses — and that Boy, and Drum- 
mond, and others, his accomplices, did ride before 
and behind them upon the said hor9es. ,, The witness 
further said, that he and his companions were re- 
moved as prisoners, but " were dismissed the same 
day, being, before they were dismissed, made to swear 
upon their dirks that they should not tell where 
Muiress was, or what should become of him." 'The 
next witness, Cruikshank, confirmed this statement; 
and in continuation, narrated, " That Muiress and 
his son were carried up and down, from place to 
place, through the mountains, from Sunday morn- 
ing, that they were taken — being the 8th — until 
Wednesday before night that they were murdered, 
without giving them meat or drink. That they and 


Drummond did, about twelve o'clock the day they 
were taken, leave the prisoners with their complices, 
and did go away to Ardkingeline on Muiress's 
horses upon the said day, being Sunday, and did 
not return until Wednesday thereafter — the day 
that Muiress and his son were murdered — and that 
after they had returned, which was about two 
o'clock, Muiress, having desired Thomas Gordon, 
who, having been sent to Muiress with a letter from 
Baldovine, and spoke Erse, to see what they intended 
to do with them, he heard the same Thomas answer 
him by order of Roy, in English, that he should 
make him, before his God, very quickly— or such 
like words." The witness said that they threw a 
dirk at himself, and threatened him with death. 
He was removed at the time of the committing of the 
murder, and the person in charge of him professed, 
that he had received instructions to put him to death 
also, but was induced to spare him. His testimony, 
like that of the other witnesses, terminated with the 
statement that the prisoners enjoyed in the country 
the character of being " broken men, thieves, and 
sorners." None of the witnesses saw the actual 
perpetration of the murder; but the bodies were 
found pierced with dirk wounds. The Macgregors 
were found guilty. Their sentence was, that they 
were to be hanged, " the right hand being previously 


cut off, and their bodies to be hung in chains on 
the gallow-lee."* 

Robert Macgregor, from the epithet Roy, must 
have been red-haired — a prevailing characteristic of 
the chief men of the Clan Gregor — whence some 
ethnologists would infer for them a Scandinavian 
origin. One of the judges of the court before which 
he was tried, Lord Pitmedden, has left this brief 
notice of the appearance and demeanour of the High- 
land brigand. " He was of a low stature, but strong 
made ; had a fierce countenance — a brisk, hawke-like 
eye. He bore the torture of the boots with great con- 
stancy; and was undaunted at his execution, though 
mangled by the executioner in cutting off his hand; 
for which the executioner was turned out."f 

The political revolutions of the country had, in 
the mean time, xmriously affected the nominal po- 
sition of the clan. Their turbulence, under the 
rule of the Presbyterians and of Cromwell, was 
interpreted as loyalty to the house of Stewart, and, 
in the year after the Restoration, the acts against 
them were repealed. In 1691 they were reimposed 
by the revolution parliament. The change but little 
affected the position of the Highland freebooters, 

* Becords of the Hight Court of Justiciary, MS. General 
Begister House. 

f Abstract from the Books of Adjournal, MS. Ad. Lib., p. 


against whom there was always a vital enmity, 
which required no orders in council or acts of parlia- 
ment to keep it alive. But it seriously affected those 
who, in the interval, had established themselves in 
peaceful pursuits among the Lowland towns. Thus, 
in 1695, a certain Evan Macgregor, describing him- 
self as a merchant, residing in Leith, and master of 
a manufactory in Edinburgh, applied to parlia- 
ment, stating that he had borne the name during 
the interval of toleration in the pursuit of his busi- 
ness, and representing that — " It is evident, on the 
one hand, his continuing the said name can be no 
prejudice to any design, ever was, or now may be, 
for the general peace, and in order to the greater 
quiet of the. Highlands; and, on the other hand, 
that his discontinuing of the samecannot but bring 
a great confusion upon his trade and all his affairs, 
which may in effect tend to his utter ruin." He 
states that the act has affected him in mercantile 
transactions, by affording an excuse to those who 
were indisposed to honour their bills or pay their 
accounts, u which he humbly supposes was never 
thereby intended." Parliament solemnly adjudged 
that the act " shall not be extended to the petitioner 
residing in Leith, and living in the Lowlands; and 
hereby allows him to use the name of Macgregor, 


but refuses that privilege or exemption to his chil- 
dren or posterity ; and ordains the petitioner to give 
in a condescendence this night of what surname 
he will give his children, to the efiect the same may 
be marked in the minutes of parliament." 

We now come, in chronological order, to a name 
which might be expected richly to continue our 
record of iniquities — that of Rob Roy, the hero of 
Scott's magnificent romance; but, singularly enough, 
little can be legitimately said of him in a narrative 
drawing its materials from criminal trials. But for 
the fortuitous illumination of fictitious literature, he 
would, indeed, have been just now no more distin- 
guishable in a list of the half-freebooter,, half-drover 
scamps with whom he was associated, than Macbeth, 
but for a similar illumination, would, have been dis- 
tinguished from a dreary catalogue of half-mythical 
monarchs with uncertain names. Rob Roy, in fact, 
was not so much a criminal as a scamp; and his mis- 
deeds, instead of the burnings,, sieges, and murders 
which blacken the memory of his predecessors, are 
associated with dishonoured bills, fraudulent bank- 
ruptcy, and swindled cattle-dealers, Scott him- 
self* in feet, had not discovered the true, character 
of his hero until after he had written the romance; 
and his evident mortification, as, in the introduction 


ta.the later editions he brings out each act of petty 
rascality, is a little ludicrous. Yielding to the 
law which proscribed the name of Macgregor, 
Bob adopted that of Campbell, in which he figures 
in some " leading ' cases," which show lawyers 
how to give check-mate to subtle debtors en- 
deavouring to evade the pursuit of their creditors. 
Thus, of date the 16th of January, 1713, Sir Hew 
Dalrymple commences the report of a case with the 
following far from heroic narrative: 

" Robert Campbell, alias Rob Roy, draws a bill 
upon Graham of Gorthie, payable to the drawer, 
which Gorthie accepted; and the drawer having 
indorsed that bill to Hamilton of Bardowie, about 
the same time the indorser broke and fled." Gorthie 
thereupon raised certain legal proceedings, in which 
there was the following history of facts: — "That 
the cause of the bill was a contract of the same date, 
whereby Rob Roy was obliged to deliver to Gorthie 
a certain number of Highland cattle: that he had 
made the like bargains with a great many gentle- 
men who had trusted him with money, in contem- 
plation of receiving the value in cattle; and having 
thus amassed a great sum of money in his hands, he 
did most fraudulently withdraw, and fled without 
performing anything on his part, and thereby be- 


came unquestionably a notour and fraudulent bank- 

It is probable that bankruptcy, so dreadful to the 
members of our artificial system, as it is termed, 
brought very little change to Rob's condition; " for 
in the principles of things he sought his moral 
creed," and it is then that we can best picture him 
saying, according to Wordsworth, 

" What need of books? 

Burn all the statutes and their shelves; 
They stir us up against our kind, 

And worse— against ourselves. 
The creatures see of flood and field, 

And those that travel in the wind. 
With them no strife can last — they live 

In peace — and peace of mind. 
For why? — because the good old rule 

Sufficeth them — the simple plan, 
That they should take who have the power, 

And they should keep who can." 

Rob was ostensibly a dealer in cattle, and he 
cared not very particularly how he came by them. 
He often exacted that celebrated tribute called 
black mail, for the protection of the fruits of Low- 
land industry; and as often, by the suspicions 
raised against him, rendered it prudent to pay 
tribute to other protectors. The arrangements for 
the payment of black mail for some years after his 

* In the Introduction to " Rod Roy," there is a copy of an 
advertisement in the Edinburgh Courant as to these transactions. 


death, show that the staple occupation of the Clan 
Gregor — cattle-lifting, as it was called — had not 
become obsolete; and, at the same time, they 
indicate that the determined and systematic efforts 
of the sufferers were drawing close to the accom- 
plishment of its suppression. In the old statistical 
account of Scotland is printed perhaps the latest 
bond for payment of black mail known to be ex- 
tant. It is dated in 1741, and relates to the lands 
immediately adjoining the Macgregor country. It 
is a systematic contract, in which Graham of Glen- 
gyle, the nephew of Rob Roy, agrees, for a* mail of 
four per cent, on the valued rent, to protect the " gen- 
tlemen, heritors, and tenants within the shires of 
Perth, Stirling, and Dumbarton," who subscribe it 
He engages to hold those who agree to pay tribute 
to him " skaithless of any loss by the away-taking of 
their cattle, horses, or sheep;" and the obligation on 
both sides is so arranged, that the payment of the 
tribute to Graham, and his compensation for any 
cattle proved to be stolen, could be made good in the 
courts of law. Such remedies, however, were only 
partial. The thieves having behind them virtually 
infinite resources, in the vast mountain region to 
the north and west, established a judicious system 
of exchanges. If Glengyle, with a posse comitatus 
from the Lenox or the Garse of Stirling, pene- 


touted into the fastnesses of the Macgiegor country, 
they might see cattle, and might know them to 
have been "lifted," as surely as the detective po- 
Hceman knows the gold-capped and jewelled watch 
found in the tramp-house to hare been stolen; but 
no man could identify his own cattle. Those 
swept from the Lowlands of Lanark or Stirling 
were far off among die mountains beyond the 
Muir of Bannoch ; those lifted in Aberdeen or 
Moray were transferred to the Macgregor country. 
The " sorners and limmers" had often great gather- 
ings for the exchange of stolen cattle. They met 
armed, and, amid libations of whisky, sometimes 
transacted a little political business for the exiled 
house of Stewart, or rather against the existing 
government, for their interest lay more in pulling 
down than setting up. 

In the year 1744, Evan Macpherson of Cluny, 
a chief of great influence, undertook what was 
called " a watch," " for the security of several 
counties in the north of Scotland front thefts and 
depredations." The function was pressed upon 
him at a meeting of the landowners most sorely 
pillaged; and, though they agreed to pay him a 
certain tribute, it was not the accomplice's bribe, 
like the old black mail, but a contribution towards 
the heavy expense of supporting a Highland police. 


So completely had a large portion of the High- 
landers been accustomed to live on the fruit of 
other people's industry, that the strict operation of 
Chury's watch is said to have involved them in 
dreadful misery.* 

Still all these remedies were partial and ineffec- 
tive, and the practice did not come to an end until 
the constitutional reformation following the rebel- 
lion of 1745 swept before it the predatory propensi- 
ties, as well as the warlike habits of the High- 

But, returning to the Clan Gregor and their 
achievements, as recorded in the proceedings of 
the penal tribunals. If all that can be said of Bob 
Boy himself may be called an unexpected blank, 
we shall find the ancient spirit reviving in his sons, 
who aimed at nobler predatory game than cattle. 
One of these sons is named in the record " James 
Macgregor, alias Drummond, alias More/' and to 
make his identification more complete, he is de- 
scribed as an outlaw, for taking to flight when 
charged with the murder of John Maclaren of 
Wester Inernenty. The indictment, which is the 
only statement we possess of the nature of this 
crime, attributes the motive to a belief among the 

* Watch undertaken by Macpherson of Cluny, Miscellany 
of Spalding Club. 


Macgregors that Maclaren was about to take a lease 
of a farm called Kirktoun, occupied by the mother 
of the young Macgregor, Rob Roy's widow — the 
heroine of the novel. The assassination, as de- 
scribed in the same document, was performed in 
the simplest of manners. " When the said John 
Maclaren was holding his own plough, with which 
he was labouring the ground, you, with a loaded 
gun in your hand, came behind his back, and 
cruelly and barbarously discharged the gun upon 
him, whereby he was wounded in the thigh, or 
some other part of his body, of which wound or 
wounds so given he died in a few hours thereafter 
that same day." 

In the proceedings on which we shall enter more 
at length, this James Drummond was associated 
with a brother, called Robert Macgregor, alias 
Campbell, alias Drummond. 

In the old mansion-house of Edinbellie, within a 
few miles of the pass of Aberfoyle, there lived in the 
winter of 1750 a young heiress named Jane Key. 
Though not nineteen years old she had been nearly 
two months a widow, and had returned on her 
husband's death to the shelter of her mother's roof. 
On the night of the 8th of December, when the 
family circle were assembled, they were alarmed by 
such sounds as used of old to announce the forays 


which the law had recently been strong enough to 
put down. The doors were burst open, and several 
armed* Highlanders, with Rob Roy's sons at their 
head,* broke in upon the household. The young 
widow was naturally the first to flee for safety, and 
had time to hide herself in one of the many recesses 
of the old mansion ere the ruffians reached the 
sitting-room. Finding her gone, they seized her 
mother, and, by threatening " to murder every per- 
son in the family, or to burn the house and every 
person in it alive, unless the said Jane Key should 
be produced," discovered the poor girl's hiding- 
place. She was told that an ardent affection for her 
person had prompted this outrage, and that Robert 
Macgregor had adopted these unusual means for 
overcoming the difficulties he might meet in aspir- 
ing to her hand; and she was told this in a manner 
to show that she was the spoil of the conqueror's 
sword, and must comply. " And upon her desir- 
ing," says the indictment, in its technical language, 
" to be allowed till next morning, or for some few 
hours, to deliberate on the answer she was to give 
to so unexpected and sudden a proposal as a mar- 
riage betwixt her, then not two months a widow, 
and a man with whom she had no manner of 
acquaintance. After some further discourse, or 
expostulation, you, the said James Macgregor, or 
one or other of your accomplices, laid violent hands 


upon die said Jane Key, within her own dwelling- 
house as aforesaid, and in a most barbarous, cruel, 
and most unbecoming and indecent manner, dragged 
her to the door, while she was making all the 
resistance in her power, and crying out for help 
and assistance, and uttering many bitter lamenta- 
tions; and after she was thus dragged to the door, 
you and one or other of your accomplices did, with 
force and violence, most barbarously and inhumanly 
lay the said Jane Key upon a horse, placing her 
body across the horse, upon the torr or forepart of 
the saddle, after having tied her arms with ropes. 
And during all the time these barbarous and horrid 
outrages were acting, you and your accomplices, or 
one or other of you, did threaten, with execrable 
oaths, immediately to murder every person who 
should offer to give the said Jane Key the least 
assistance." f 

She was thus conveyed to Bowerdennan on Loch 
Lomond. The tourist who sojourns for a short time at 
this lovely spot, before crossing the lake, or attempt- 
ing the ascent of Ben Lomond, will scarcely, in the 
midst of so much tranquillity and beauty, be able 
to realise the horrible position of poor Jane Key in 
the hands of the hereditary enemies of her house 
and of her race ; the ruthless, lawless tribe, whose 
savage ferocity had been the theme of all household 
• Justiciary Papers, Advocates' Library. 


honors, from the nursery-tale inflicted on the 
rebellious infant, to the sanguinary legend which 
roused the interest of the sleepy circle round the 
smouldering tur£ It was among the families ^nd 
communities, who were nearest to their mountain 
homes, that the Highland outlaws had established 
the greatest dread and horror; and by the heiress's 
family their neighbours above the pass had, for 
generation after generation, been viewed in the 
same light as the Red Indian was by the Canadian 
settler. And it was among these men that she 
bow found herself, as helpless and as far removed 
from succour as if the law had not recently pro- 
fessed to assert its supremacy. But it was not 
their object to do her any further injury than 
what was necessary to give them the command over 
her estate. To this end it was essential that the 
possession of her person should be sanctified by the 
rites of matrimony — the more solemnly performed 
the better. Warrants were issued against the ma- 
rauders, and a body of troops was sent to aid the 
civil power; but the rufiians conveyed their prise 
from place to place among the hereditary fastnesses 
of the Macgregor country, and before they could 
be interrupted, a clergyman, acting under their 
orders, had celebrated her marriage with Robert 
Macgregor in due form. 

Thus baffled, the relations of the heiress resolved 


to take up their position in the final object of 
attack — the citadel as it were — and took measures 
for placing her property under trust. The ruffians, 
no doubt, believed that they would persuade her, 
for the sake of worldly appearances, or of many of 
those multitudinous influences which guide the 
female heart to gentleness and self-sacrifice, silently 
to justify this rough wooing; and, giving the chosen 
brother, in the eye of the world, the place of her 
lord and husband, thus enable him to obtain her 
property. The court of session, on the applica- 
tion of her relations, placed her property under 
trust, with a view of applying the proceeds in re- 
lieving the heiress from captivity and bringing the 
kidnappers to justice. The result of this showed 
how accurately the Macgregors' views had been 
solved. It was now necessary that everything 
should be braved to acquire for Robert the position 
of the accepted husband of his victim, and the re- 
moval of the property from their grasp drew one 
of them out of that den from which the law and 
the sword were alike unable to drive him. 

Now occurred a circumstance which, in a re- 
markable shape, shows the feebleness of the law a 
century ago even in the capital of Scotland. Jane 
Key — or as she was now called, Mrs. Drummond — 
paid a visit to the metropolis. Her husband did 
not accompany her; he might be seriously occupied 


with his extensive transactions in sheep and cattle. 
The brother James, however, having less to do, 
kindly attended his sister-in-law. While they were 
thus apparently under the eye of the world, an ap- 
plication was made to the court of session in proper 
official form in the name of Jane Key, desiring that 
her property might be restored, declaring that she 
was the willing and affectionate wife of Robert 
Macgregor, or Drummond, and that the forced 
abduction was a little farce got up by herself, to 
save appearances and avoid the impertinent ridicule 
that might have persecuted her for yielding to a 
passion matured within two months after her hus- 
band's death. The court looked with supreme 
suspicion on this document, as well they might. 
Nor did it clear the case, that a letter was produced, 
signed, but not written by Jane Key, and dated 
twenty days before the abduction, in which she 
invited Macgregor to come and seize her. It was 
considered necessary to examine Jane Key as a wit- 
ness for the crown in the proceedings preliminary 
to a prosecution; and the record bears that " She 
acknowledged that she had been with the persons 
against whom the warrants had been granted on her 
account; and that she was, upon the Monday after 
she was taken away, married to the said Robert 
Macgregor, alias Drummond, by one who signed 
vol. i. p 


his name Smith, and that she inclined to adhere to 
the marriage*" 

Among the deep narrow winds, and mountainous 
edifices of the Old Town of Edinburgh, a Scots- 
man's house was much more of a castle than an 
Englishman's. The scanty police were allof an ex- 
ternal, street-parading character; and men backed 
by followers could isolate themselves both from au- 
thority and observation, and conduct schemes of 
domestic tyranny with impunity. Conscious of 
such facilities, the court of session "sequestrated" 
the heiress, and removing her from her alleged 
husband, appointed for her a place of abode in the 
house of an acquaintance, whose character and 
social position might secure her from foul play. 
The magistrates of Edinburgh were enjoined to 
have a charge over her. Sentinels were placed round 
the house; and it was an instruction to them, that, 
without interrupting social intercourse with friendly 
viators, they were not to permit any large number 
of persons to enter the house. Such were the pre- 
cautions deemed necessary for asserting the authority 
of the law close to its very fountain-head. After 
she had been for some time thus protected, she was 
again examined, and she then bore testimony to the 
whole tissue of violence and fraud of which she had 
been the victim. 


James Drummond was brought to trial. A long 
legal dispute arose on the question whether the 
•verdict of the jury was or was not a conviction.; 
and in the mean time the criminal escaped, and the 
poor victim died. Robert Macgregor, who acted 
the part of the husband — but who is supposed to 
have been the less guilty of the two brothers — was 
afterwards caught, tried, convicted, and hanged. 
-James lived in France with the Jacobite refugees, 
awA other gentlemen who had found it convenient to 
•quit their native shore. A small job in the way of his 
business was put in his hands soon after hie retreat; 
but he failed satisfactorily to accomplish it. Allan 
Brec Stewart, of whom an account will be given 
further on, had made his escape under suspicions 
very dose to assurance that he had murdered 
Oampbell of Glenure. It was of great moment to 
-the government to get hold of Allan Brec — indeed, 
in his absence, they found it necessary, as we shall 
afterwards find, to hang another person, who pro- 
bably might have been spared had Allan Brec been 
apprehended. Drummond was employed to kidnap 
him; but Allan Brec, having heard of the plot, 
vowed that he would slay Drummond, if the rascal 
came within his reach; and he was a man likely to 
be as good as his word. Drummond, who lived 
afterwards in abject poverty in France, stated that 


he was offered by Lord Holderness a lucrative ap- 
pointment under government, but that he refused it 
on principle. And there are not wanting Celtic 
fanatics who, discarding all the rest of his vile 
history, hold- him, upon this little morsel of his own 
evidence in his own favour, to have been a noble- 
hearted man of sensitive honour. 

It is impossible to pass away from these sad annals 
of fraud and violence without a brief glance at the 
political moral taught by more than two hundred 
years of hereditary war with the law. It may join, 
with many other dark chapters in British history, 
in teaching the true functions of a governing people, 
towards races behind them in enlightenment, and 
in the hereditary subjugation of the bad passions. 
Nor are the lessons so taught absolutely useless at 
this day for practical purposes. If we be now be- 
yond the time when instruction of so tragic a cha- 
racter is necessary to teach statesmen their duty 
towards any portion of the United Kingdom, yet 
this empire is daily coming more and more in con- 
tact with wild tribes in distant lands, and is daily 
requiring further instruction in the difficult art 
of properly ruling them. In the history of the 
Macgregors we see, on the one hand, a ferocious 
race, in whom the predatory and sanguinary pas- 
- *>ns are nourished from generation [to generation, 


acting after their kind; on the other, a government 
which uses nothing but the sword, and, unless it 
can carry that to the extent of extermination, ever 
uses it in vain. The law is the avenger alone; 
it is never the parent, the instructor, or the protec- 
tor; and its vengeance ever reprovoked is never 

To judge in any comparative way of the merits 
of the two parties, is a difficult ethical problem. To 
maintain that the conduct of the government was 
just, is out of the question. It is difficult to find 
out the best means of punishing crime, but it is 
easy to decide that there cannot be a worse than the 
handing over of the offender to the irresponsible 
vengeance of his enemy. On the other hand, it 
would be somewhat more preposterous to follow 
some Celtic apologists in the view that the Mac* 
gregors were a pure and persecuted race, whose out- 
rages were but the recalcitrations of high-minded 
men against calculating oppression. They had plun- 
dered their neighbours, and defied the government. 
Governments commonly consist of men with human 
passions, liable to be directed by the opinions and 
prejudices of the time. If they are pricked, they 
will bleed ; if they are tickled, they will laugh ; and if 
they are wronged, will they not revenge? But the 
fihort, sharp remedy of the sword has ever been too 


readily resorted to to cut the knot, and sever the 
entanglements which men find in dealings with 
tribes less civilised than themselves. Thus the 
barbarian has seen civilisation only in its terrors, 
and has recoiled from it instead of courting it* To 
be superior to angry impulses;, and treat with ab- 
stract justice, and a view to their enlightenment 
and improvement, tribes who themselves are full of 
injustice and cruelty; is one of the latest and most 
precious acquisitions* of a high civilisation;* 

* How much of the spirit which animated the proceedings 
against the Macgregors yet lingers in minds reared under the 
shelter of British institutions, may be gathered from the follow- 
ing remarks by an Australian author, incorporating a still more 
expressive quotation from a writer on America. They are matfe 
in reference to the indignant feelings expressed by the bushmen 
on the occasion of some of their number haying been hanged 
for killing natives : 

"The. gun is the only law the black fears; the only powen 
that deters him from murder and plunder; and the only avail- 
able administrator of punishment for his offences." 

" Those who denounce the squatter as a murderer and land* 
robber, it has been well said in Kennedy's account of Texas, 
( take no thought of the spirit that has impelled him onwards, 
of the qualities he is constrained to display, and the sotialanra* 
liorations of which he is the pioneer. He loves the wilderness 
for the independence it confers— for the sovereignty which it 
enables him to wield by dint of his personal energies?. The 
forest is subject to his axe— its inhabitants to his gun.' By 
daily toil, and at the risk of his life, he earns his bread, and 
leads a life of conscious independence, where the grand oM 
forests have stood for ages, and where the foot of the white man 
never trod before. His life is one of continued labour, solitude, 
rod, too often, warfare. He has an enemy untiring, and often? 


While the name of Macgregor remained under 
legal proscription, those members of the clan who 
desired to enjoy the privileges of peaceful civilisar 
tion adopted the names of their maternal relations, 
of changed the forbidden shape into Grregorson, 
Macgregory, or Gregory. This last name recals 
singular and interesting associations, realised in a 
well-known anecdote, which represents the unplear 
sanl surprise of the Aberdeen professor on haying 
to receive Rob Eoy in his study as a distinguished 
and influential kinaman. During a great part of the 
tissue of hereditary crimes which we have just been 
recording, this sapling of the family produced an 
hereditary succession of genius, worth, and learn- 

waiting long for his time— cunning, wary, and expert— fre- 
quently displaying great courage, and, if he haa wrongs to 
avenge, heedless on whom he wreaks his vengeance, so long as a 
white man is the victim. Surely, then, the man who is the 
pioneer of civilisation — who, going out into the wilderness, 
spends his days in toil and danger, and his nights in dreariness 
and solitude — who must send out his shepherd with a musket 
on his shoulder, and sling his rifle at his side, when he rides 
among his herds— who, making a lodgement in the bush, 
causes 'the desert to rejoice, and blossom as the rose/ and 
opens the way for the smiling villages, the good old British in- 
stitutions, and the happy population which follow: surely this 
man has not laboured in vain, but has deserved, at least, leni- 
ency at our hands." — (Excursions and Adventures in New South 
Wales, by John Henderson, i., 145.) The author, in explanation 
of bis plea for leniency, says, that he does not mean to justify 
"the causeless and indiscriminate slaughter which has often 
taken place." 


ing, such, in the steadiness and continuity of its 
growth, as the world has not perhaps exemplified 
in any other family; nor has its lustre yet departed. 
It was not until the year 1775 that the oppro- 
brium thrown on the name of Macgregor was 
removed by an act of the British parliament. Since 
that day, the once dreaded name has been sounded 
with respect at drawing-room doors, in levees, in 
bank parlours, anil on the hustings. It has fallen 
to the lot of many eminent and worthy men. And 
singularly enough, the only Highland clan which 
strives to keep its ancient ties, and assemble to- 
gether in a body, is that same Clan Gregor, to 
whom it was prohibited to convene in numbers 
exceeding four at a time. 




The solitary crime of which we are now to give 
a brief account, forms no inapt supplement to the 
wild history of the Macgregors. It was the ex- 
piring flame of that clan animosity which had been 
fostered by the previous monarchs of Scotland, 
as the divide et impera by which they sought to 

After the suppression of the last Jacobite insur- 
rection, Colin Campbell of Grlenure had been ap- 
pointed factor for the government on certain for- 
feited estates in the West Highlands, one of which 
had belonged to Stewart of Ardshiel. In the 
spring of 1751 he had removed Stewart from 
the farm of Glen-Duror, and he made arrange- 


ments for a sweeping clearance of several other 
tenants from the estate at the ensuing spring term. 
These proceedings were resisted in the courts of 
law; and the prisoner, James Stewart, had led the 
proceedings with great activity and zeal; but the 
legal resistance was in vain. All who are acquainted 
with the state of the Highlands at that time will 
know that these proceedings implied much more 
than the mere conclusion of the connexion between 
landlord and tenant. The farmer, or tacksman, 
stood half way between the chief and the humblest 
class of retainers. He was a gentleman, holding in 
the patriarchal and military hierarchy the rank of 
an officer. His rent did not depend on a question 
of value, but was a tribute paid to the head of the 
house. He was considered to have a sort of bene- 
ficial property in his holding; and his removal from 
it, in the old days, before the forfeitures, would 
have been considered an affair rather for the clan, 
and kindred than the law to undertake. 

But the estates were now under the control of 
the barons of exchequer, as managers for the 
crown. They had. in view two objects — the ear 
largement of the rents, and the suppression of the 
Jacobite interest in the district. With both it was 
considered that the continuance of Stewart and the 
other tenants on Ardshiel was incompatible. It 


appeared that to Stewart personally the political 
question was the more serious of the two. It is 
stated in the speeches made by the counsel for the 
prosecution, that he discovered no resentment at 
his own ejection; bat, procuring another farm in 
the nesghbomihoodV continued to eaerciae his old in- 
fluence over the tenants of ArdsMeL It was. when 
steps were taken for tbeii removal, too, that his zeal 
and activity were exhibited. In the words of the 
accusing counsel, " So soon aa the factor, in the 
farther execute** <af his instructions, began to take 
the proper measures for removing, at Whit-Sunday, 
1752, some of these tenants, he then took the alarm ; 
that was to pluck up his interest by the root, and 
entirely put an end to his influence. He therefore 
made, the cause of the tenants his own, and every 
method o£ opposition was tried to prevent their 

Stewart at first coloured his. charges so highly, 
and made out so strong a case of oppression against 
Campbell, that he prevailed on the court to grant 
s 44 siflb," as it was termed, for slopping the pro*- 
ending- wntil they might he folly considered. 
Elated by fade temporary triumph! Stewart had 
assembled the tenants, and inspured them with 
hopes that he would succeed in defeating the mar 


chinations of their enemy. Campbell, the factor, 
much annoyed by this interruption, went to Edin- 
burgh, that he might personally bring the process 
of removal or ejectment to the desired conclusion. 
Stewart, at the same time, went thither to oppose 
him. A bitter legal contest took place, in which, 
as already stated, the factor was triumphant. 

It is only from the state of our western neigh- 
bours, among whom like disputes have produced 
similar tragic results, that we can understand the 
mingled elements of hatred — political, pecuniary, 
and social — connected with such proceedings. That 
they could not do otherwise than engender thoughts 
of the darkest malice, was shown to be a common 
understanding by a little incident in the trial. 
The prisoner himself objected to the competency 
of a witness against him, as one who must be im- 
bued with malice, because, in former days, when 
the management of the estates were in his own 
hands, he had ejected this witness. To the ordi- 
nary tenants, in fact, it was a deprivation of their 
moderate competency. A few incidents in the 
evidence show the severity of the change it would 
create in their position. Some of them were to 
remain in the farms, under the new tenants, in the 
capacity of " bowmen," an expression which recals 


other elements common to the Highland pea- 
santry of that and the Irish of later days. The bow- 
man, like the holder of a con-acre of land, worked 
a small holding or croft, and paid his rent to the 
tenant or middleman in a portion of the produce.* 

On the 14th of May, the day before the term of 
removal, Campbell, with the necessary officers for 
executing the writs, proceeded by the old road 
from Fortwilliam towards the too-memorable valley 
of Glencoe.f They passed the ferry of Ballahu- 
lish. Campbell then alighted from his horse, and 
had a conversation with a neighbouring proprietor 
whom he met there. While thus privately occupied 
with his friend, he desired his servant, John Mac- 
kenzie, to walk on before along with Mungo Camp- 
bell, an Edinburgh writer. At an abrupt and rocky 
part of the road this Mackenzie dropped a great- 

* The name is supposed to be derived from the steelbow with 
which the produce was weighed. 

f The road is one of the wildest and most broken of the 
ancient northern Highland paths. It rises high through rocky 
ground, and often subjects the traveller to a severe contest with 
the Highland storms. A melancholy instance of its dangerous 
character occurred so lately as 1847. On the last day of 
August in that year, two English tourists, having undertaken 
the journey between Glencoe and Fortwilliam on foot, sat 
down, overcome by fatigue. They were next day found dead 
where they nad taken rest, coldness and exhaustion seducing 
them into sleep from which they never wakened. 

?6 TttlAL OF JAHfeS 8TBWA3ET. 

coat belonging to Kennedy, a sheriff's officer, who 
was following on foot When Campbell and hie 
friend came to the place where the great-coat lay, a 
halloo was raised to the others to come back for it. 
Then Campbell parted with his friend and went on. 
Kennedy, coming back for the coat, crossed Camp- 
bell, who still went on. The Edinburgh writer was a 
short distance in advance of Campbell, for the road 
did not admit of two siding abreast. They had to 
traverse thus a more than usually rough and broken 
portion of the path, where they required to look to 
their horses, and where they were overshadowed on 
either side by a thicket called the Wood of Letter- 
More. When Campbell reached this spot his com- 
panions heard the discharge of a shot. On coming 
up they found him lying in hiB blood, breath- 
ing, but unable to utter more than a few incoherent 
words, and close to death. Two bullets had entered, 
one on either side of the backbone. The spot, it 
was afterwards noticed, was one from which a per- 
son standing on the bank might survey the road 
and all that took place on it for some distance. 
Nothing was seen of the person who fired the fatal 
shot but the distant shadowy outline of a retreating 
figure, who seemed to be dressed in a dark Highland 
coat. About the actual perpetrator of the assassina- 


tion there could, however, be no doubt. There was 
% certain Alkn Brec Stewart, called in the indict- 
»ent by the Oekic alias of Vic Ian Vic Allister. 
He had been a soldier in a government regiment of 
foot; but after the battle of Preston he deserted, 
served with the insurgents, and, making his escape, 
entered the French service. He went about openly 
m the neighbourhood of Ballahulish and Glencoe, 
and what his friends spoke of his temerity, he said 
" he had made up his peace with General Churchill, 
and had got his pass, which he bad in his pocket- 
book;" but he always made some frivolous excuse 
for dedbning to let the pass be seen. The most 
peculiar part of his conduct, considering his dan- 
gerous position, was the Tery noticeable costume in 
which he swaggered about; it was called his French 
dress, and was said to consist of a long blug coat, a 
red waistcoat, and a feathered hat* He had been 
heard, as he went idly about dissipating in change- 
houses or small taverns, potent in his abuse of the 
new factor and the whole race of Campbell, espe- 
cially after he had been drinking whisky. 

His expressions of enmity were all the better 
noticed, that a change-house which he frequented, 
probably because it lay nearest to Bis haunts, was 
kept by a Campbell. To this man he had bluntly 


said one dgy, in his cups, that he hated all of the 
name of Campbell Then going away and drink- 
ing elsewhere, he returned and told the publican, 
that if he " had any respect for his friends, he 
would tell them, if they offered to turn out the 
possessors of Ardshiel's estate, he would make black 
cocks of them before they entered into possession;" 
an expression the significance of which will be suf- 
ficiently apparent to sportsmen. " He said, twenty 
times over, he would be fit-sides with Glenure 
wherever he met him, and wanted nothing more 
than to meet him at a convenient place." In 
another change-house, where he had been drinking 
all night, he showed a profusion of tipsy generosity 
to a poor bowman, and wound up his attentions by 
saying, " If he would fetch him the red fox's skin, 
he would give him what was much better; to 
which the said John Maccoll answered, that he was 
no sportsman, and that he was much better skilled 
in ploughing or delving." * 

Allan Brec frequented the house of James Stewart. 
It was shown that, on the night of the murder, he 

* Trial of James Stewart, 8vo, Edinburgh, 1753, appendix, 
p. 25. The references to the trial in the present notice are all 
taken from the documents and evidence so published. They 
fill a considerable volume. 


had left his French clothes there. He put on a 
short black Highland coat, as it is described, with 
metal buttons, belonging to James Stewart, his 
alleged accomplice: this dress corresponded with 
the slight view which the Edinburgh writer ob- 
tained of the retreating figure in the wood of Letter- 
More. After the murder, his French clothes, as 
they were called, were removed by his friends, and 
concealed in a place where he was instructed how to 
find them. Allan Brec took to flight. There would 
have been nothing conclusive in this act taken 
alone, as he was a deserter and a rebel, whence a cri- 
minal investigation in his immediate neighbourhood 
must have greatly disturbed his nerves. 

He made his first appearance after the murder at 
the house of Macdonald of Grlencoe, the very place 
where a romance writer would, by the force of 
destiny, send a murderer steeped in recent blood. 
Nor was the time unsuitable for such a visit — it was 
between three and four o'clock in the morning. He 
knocked at the window, but it appears that be could 
not rouse the slumberers without calling out to them, 
for the master of the house and his step-mother were 
awakened by a child exclaiming that he heard Allan 
Brec's voice without. Both Macdonald and his step- 
mother held a conference with Allan, with whom 

VOL. I. O 


they had a family connexion. Their evidence was of 
the most brief and, naturally, most unsatisfactory 
kind. Allan, they both said, gave them the first in- 
formation of the murder committed the evening 
before, but he entered into no particulars — merely 
told the simple fact, and they made no kind of remark 
or inquiry. He declined to enter the house. He told 
his friends that he made his untimely visit to bid 
them farewell; that he was to leave the country, and 
that he was then on his way to Rannoch. 

We next find him seeking refuge in a place 
called Koilasonachan, spoken of by the witnesses 
•accustomed to the neighbouring solitudes of Grlenooe 
and Rannoch as so wild and remote, that to find 
a man lurking there at once suggested that he 
must have been after evil deeds. A bowman, John 
Brec Maccoll, as he was passing through this wilder- 
ness, heard a whistle from a height, and, looking up, 
saw Allan Brec there. After their salutations, the 
bowman told him (by his own account) that it could 
be no good action that took him to such a place. 
He said he had heard the rumour of the murder, 
and charged Allan with it. Allan asked eagerly 
what he had learned about the murder. He said: 
" He had seen no person from the strath of Appin, 
but that two poor women, who had come up Glencoe, 


were telling that Glenure was murdered on Thurs- 
day evening in the wood of Letter-More ; and that 
two people were seen going from the place where he 
was murdered; and that he, Allan Brec, was said to 
be one of them; that Allan Brec answered he had 
no concern in it; and that, if his information was 
right, there was but one person about the murder; 
and that as he (himself) was idle about the coun- 
try, he was sure he would be suspected of it, but 
that that would give him little concern if he 
had not been a deserter, which would go harder 
upon him, in case he was apprehended, than any- 
thing that could be proved against him about the 

Allan, in want of necessary food, besought the 
bowman to go to Callart or Glencoe to procure 
some oatmeal for him. He intended immediately 
to flee to France, but lacked the pecuniary means. 
To facilitate his object, he desired the bowman to 
take a letter to Fortwilliam. His method of pro- 
viding writing materials in the wilderness showed 
considerable resources of ingenuity. " Allan Brec," 
said the witness, u looked about among the trees, 
and finding a wood-pigeon's quill, made a pen of 
it ; and having made ink of some powder he took 
out of a powder-horn that was in his pocket, he 
wrote a letter. 1 ' The messenger was told, that if he 


were caught with that letter he must swallow it 
rather than let it be found. A girl from the nearest 
cottage, going after stray cattle, had caught a 
glimpse of Allan, and, returning home in fright, 
said she had seen the figure of a man in the wilds 
of Koilasonachan. She was told that there were 
bogles or ghosts there, and that she had better hold 
her peace as to what she had seen. Through cir- 
cuitous messengers, who could not be got to confess 
the full amount of their charitable exertions, the 
money he required was conveyed to Allan, along 
with his French clothes ; and the short Highland 
coat and bonnet were afterwards found left on the 

Allan Brec ultimately escaped to the Continent. 
Great efforts were made by the government to get 
him apprehended in France, where he sought an 
asylum; and it is probable that they were the 
more zealous in the cause, because his apprehension 
might have rendered unnecessary some proceedings 
to be afterwards described, which exposed them to 
unpleasant reflections. An instrument worthy of 
such an object — James Drummond, the son of Rob 
Roy — had, as we have already seen, been employed 
to kidnap him. He was not so successful, however, 
with the daring mountaineer as he had been with 
the youthful widow of Edinbellie ; and Allan Brec, 


discovering his object, threatened to slay him, and 
made him feel that his life was not very safe in the 
neighbourhood of his intended victim.* 

Allan Brec was thus never brought to trial. The 
evidence against James Stewart, as his accomplice, 
imperfect and unsatisfactory as it is, leaves no doubt 
that it was Allan who drew the trigger. Perhaps 
a fastidious modern jury might, before convicting, 
require some things which remain vague to be 
explained; but for all the purposes of the historical 
critic, who cannot hang, the evidence is sufficient 
for finding a verdict. This, however, is by far the 
least interesting part of the tragedy. The pro- 
ceedings against James Stewart of Aucharn, Allan's 

* Sir Walter Scott has preserved the following notice of 
Allan Brec:—" About 1789, a friend of mine, who was then 
residing in Paris, was invited to see some procession which was 
supposed likely to interest him, from the windows of an apart- 
ment occupied by a Scottish Benedictine priest. He found 
sitting by the fire a tall, thin, raw-boned grim looking old man, 
with the petit croix of St. Louis. His visage was strongly marked 
by the irregular projections of the cheek-bones and chin. His 
eyes were grey. His grizzled hair exhibited marks of haying 
been red, and his complexion was weatherbeaten, and remark- 
ably freckled. Some civilities in French passed between the 
old man and my friend, in the course of which they talked of 
the streets and squares of Paris, till at length the old soldier, 
for such he seemed, and such he was, said, with a sigh, in the 
old Highland accent, ' Deil ane o' them a' is worth the Hie 
Street of Edinburgh.' On inquiry, this admirer of Auld Keekie, 
which he was never to see again, proved to be Allan Brec 
Stew«ti. n — Introduction to Sob Boy, p. SI. 


kinsman, are far more worthy of notice than the 
events connected with the murder itself. 

The interest which James Stewart took in the 
protection of the tenants who were to be ejected 
has been already noticed. He had been heard to 
say that, if baffled in the court of session, he 
would bring the injuries inflicted on the tenants 
under the notice of parliament; and, if beaten 
there, — he added, after a pause, " that he behoved 
to take the only other remedy that remained." The 
conversation one day turning on an officer of the 
army who had been branded for cowardice, Stewart 
passionately exclaimed, that Campbell, the new 
factor, deserved the brand as well, for he had 
challenged the man, and he would not fight himself. 
He desired Campbell to be told that he proclaimed 
his dishonour. Like his kinsman, Allan Brec, he 
spoke vigorously in his cups ; and was, like him, 
apt to take them in the premises of hostile publi- 
cans of the name of Campbell, whose houses nothing 
but the dire calls of what is in Scotland so ex- 
pressively called " drouth " would have induced 
him to enter. To one of the persons who thus had 
motives for noticing his conduct with uncharitable 
constructions, he refused, after partaking of his 
liquor, to offer the customary courtesies of the 
district, observing that he would rather see all of 


his name hanged ; and there were some Campbells 
whose feet he would readily draw down while they 
were suspended — alluding to an old hangman's 
duty which the patent slip has superseded. In 
these dissipated fits, he would scatter suspicious 
hints among the tenantry or commoners. Thus, 
drawing a picture of the new factor's cunning and 
rapacity, he continued to observe, that if he " went 
on in the same way, it was likely he would in five 
years be Laird of Appin. And upon the witness* 
and the said John More and John Beg Maccoll say- 
ing that that was likely to happen, the said James 
Stewart answered, that that was the fault of the 
commoners, or followers ; for, however he, or 
people in circumstances like him, would shift for 
themselves, they, the commoners, would be very 
badly off; and added, that he knew commoners 
once in Appin who would not allow Glenure to go 
on at such a rate/' One is here reminded of 
" There was a Brutus once, that would have 
brooked," &c. Of such a kind were the threats and 
bravadoes of the discarded factor against his suc- 
cessor; and on one occasion he had even said he would 
waste a shot on him though he went on his knees. 

* In this and the subsequent extracts from evidence, the 
word witness is substituted for the Scottish technical term 


What was of far more consequence, Allan Brec 
was James Stewart's kinsman, and lived in big 
house. It appeared pretty clear that the murderer 
had his kinsman's clothes on when he committed 
the deed; but he had worn them on other occa- 
sions. Of some guns which Stewart possessed, one 
was stated to be amissing on the day of the murder, 
and it was afterwards found discharged. The guns, 
along with some broadswords, and other weapons, 
were sedulously concealed by Stewart's family im- 
mediately after the murder. This, however, was in 
itself a natural, and almost necessary arrangement, 
for the disarming act was in operation; and the 
inquiry following on a murder would certainly 
render Stewart liable to the penalties for disobe- 
dience of the act. On hearing the first rumour of 
the death of Campbell, he had exclaimed — " God 
bless me, is he shot ?" as if anticipating the method 
of the death ; and he refused to join those who 
were assembling round the body. 

Stewart was found making desperate efforts to 
obtain some ready money. He sent a pressing 
message to a person in Fortwilliam with whom 
he had made a bargain about cows, to send him 
the money, in anticipation of his own fulfilment 
of the bargain. The man was at first angry and 
impatient, as at an unreasonable request; but he 


afterwards complied, probably on receiving a hint 
of the purpose for which the money was to be 
used. This money was conveyed to Allan Brec, 
to enable him to leave the country. There could 
be no doubt that Stewart, with all his family 
and partisans, assisted Allan Brec in making his 
escape; and did what in them lay, by concealing 
his clothes and otherwise, to shield him from justice. 
The only other incident of any importance bearing 
against Stewart was, that the bowman who talked 
with Allan Brec in Koilasonachan, reported him to 
have remarked that probably Stewart's family would 
be suspected of the murder ; that probably both 
father and son might be apprehended for it; and 
the son's tongue was not so good as the father's. 

No law, like that which in England affected 
accessories after the fact, had taken root in Scot- 
land, and Stewart was brought to trial as a planner 
and adviser of the murder. There is no use, at 
the present day, of denying that the proceedings 
against him were unjust, according to modern 
notions of the administration of the law; and that 
the evidence was insufficient to justify a verdict of 
wilful murder against him. We know, however, 
and it was well known by the government in that 
day, that Stewart, along with many others, had 
tacitly adopted a position which baffled the laws in 


their fair administration* Granting .that he had 
deliberately concocted the murder, the arrangement 
never could have been proved by the evidence of 
his own kinsmen and supporters ; and, of course, a 
secret compact could not be easily proved by mem- 
bers of the hostile clans. 

But it is unnecessary to suppose that such a 
compact had been made. It was sufficient to 
paralyse the government, that, when a man like 
Allan Brec committed a deed in accordance with 
the feelings and devout wishes, though not the insti- 
gations of his kindred and supporters, they should 
all remain dumb and motionless! or should bestir 
themselves only to hide him, and help him to 
escape. The government was resolved, without 
any scruple, to break through such a system, by 
making an example; and we shall now see how it 
set about this business. 

The lord justice-general is the head or pre- 
sident of the high court of justiciary, or supreme 
criminal tribunal, of Scotland. Down to so late a 
time as the reign of William IV., it was an office 
merely honorary conferred on some influential 
peer. During the irregularities immediately pre- 
ceding the revolution, the justice-general of course 
employed his offiee for every purpose of oppres- 
sion and rapacity; but it had subsequently settled 


down into practice that the criminal justice of the 
country was to be administered by professional and 
responsible judges trained in the practice of the law. 
Thus the lord justice-general no more thought of 
acting in the justiciary than the lord mayor in the 
recorder's court. But the Duke of Argyle, the 
head of the house of Campbell and of the Hanover 
interest, was resolved to preside at the trial of a 
Stewart and a Jacobite for the murder of a Camp- 
bell and a Hanoverian. 

It was considered that even if the nominal head 
of the justiciary court should sit in judgment, he 
ought to do so only in the high court, as it was 
termed, in Edinburgh, and that it was not con- 
sistent with his office of president of the chief 
tribunal to act as a judge on circuit. But there were 
irresistible temptations for his breaking on this oc- 
casion through every established custom. If the 
proceedings were referred to the circuit court, 
Stewart would be tried at Inverary, among the 
Campbells, who hated him, and in Argyle's own 
capital, where he was as absolute as it was pos- 
sible for a subject to be. Further still, — it had 
not been customary for the lord advocate in person 
to conduct prosecutions on circuit; but on the 
present occasion that high officer — whether in 
deference to the rank of the presiding judge, or on 
account of the urgent importance of the occasion — 


repaired to Inverary to conduct the prosecution. Of 
the fifteen jurymen empannelled to give a true and 
impartial verdict, eleven bore the name of Camp- 
bell. Many of the witnesses could not speak Eng- 
lish, and a Campbell acted as interpreter. The 
transmission of the evidence through such a medium 
gives it a stiff, inanimate character, and there is 
little doubt that it bore a Campbell tinge. And 
yet, what was to be expected? The prosecutors 
would scarcely choose a hostile witness; and were 
they to find an impartial man who knew Gaelic ! 
The witnesses would do their best on the one hand to 
baffle and conceal. Evidently they knew much 
which they did not tell; and, on the other hand, 
there is little doubt that the interpreter would give 
a strong tinge to what they did tell. This little 
portion in itself is only too characteristic a type of 
the whole history. 

After such powerful preparations for extracting a 
verdict of guilty, it would be superfluous to inquire 
into the truth of all that was charged against the 
government by the exasperated friends of Stewart. 
They complained that the bar had been intimidated. 
It was not to be much wondered at, that some 
learned counsel found it at that time inconvenient 
to go to Inverary. Yet Stewart was ably and gal- 
lantly defended; and, indeed, one of his advocates, 
Walter Stewart, made an allusion to the peculiari- 


ties of the occasion, which was somewhat of a home- 
thrust. " The time was/* he said, " indeed, when 
the feeble law was unable to protect the innocent — 
when the rules of justice weip broke to pieces by 
the ruffian hands of power; then our unhappy 
country groaned under the yoke of arbitrary power 
— then was scarce the form of a trial; the best, the 
greatest of our country-r-even an Argyle — fell a 
sacrifice to the call of tyranny. But now, ray lords, 
the days which our fathers wished to see, and did 
not see, we have the happiness to enjoy. A fair 
trial, which the noblest could not obtain, the meanest 
are now entitled to, under the protection of laws 
guarded by a government ever watchful for the good 
of its subjects, under which the keenness of private 
prosecutors will meet with no countenance or en- 

It was admitted that both Stewart and his 
family had been subject to hardships unusual and 
unconstitutional, in being separately confined in 
dungeons, without receiving access to their friends 
or professional advisers. But this was remedied 
ere it became too late/ and a natural enough cause 
was assigned for it They had been placed under 
military guard in the prison of Fortwilliam, and 
the commanding-officer knowing nothing of legal 
rights, or the privileges of the untried, acted on 


professional notions of duly, and excluded all access 
to his captives. 

Many occurrences took place which would now 
be counted indecencies; — but it must be remem- 
bered that the juncture was not half way from the 
days of Jeffries to our own. One of the counsel 
for the prosecution, whose words must be taken in 
connexion with the avowed Jacobitism of the ac- 
cused, said: " I must say that his family and 
connexions — his character and conduct in public 
life, are so many circumstances forming a presump- 
tion almost equal to a proof in support of the charge 
brought against him." In the face of such declara- 
tions, the prisoner's counsel was well justified in 
complaining of "an impression which has been 
industriously raised and artfully propagated, as if it 
were somehow necessary that the pannel should be 
found guilty, and as if his being acquitted would 
bring a reflection on this part of the kingdom." 

The jury found the accused guilty. It is in the 
final admonition given by the presiding judge, on 
sentencing the unfortunate man to death, that we 
now, with astonishment, find the hereditary enmity 
of race and party bursting forth through all control 
of judicial decorum. One would have expected the 
statesman of Walpole's day, and the polished cour- 
tier of the age of Chesterfield, incapable, even were 


the occasion a far lea solemn one, of saying what 
follows. And so at St. Stephen's or St. James's he 
doubtless would have been; but in his own capital, 
with his retainers around him, looking his enemy 
in the face, the old blood of MacCallum More was 
up. In his charge to the jury, he said: 

" In the year 1715 there broke out a most un- 
natural and unprovoked rebellion, soon after the 
accession of his late majesty to the throne ; in 
which the part your clan acted is well known, so 
many being here present that were witnesses of their 
composing pact of the rebel army which besieged 
this town. This I myself have reason to know. A 
royal indemnity soon followed after those treasons 
then committed. But, in the year 1719, your 
clan, unmindful of their lives and fortunes having 
been granted them only two years before, did again 
rise in rebellion, and assisted a foreign enemy in an 
invasion; in this you are said to have acted a part, 
though at that time very young. 

" In the year 1745 the restless spirits of the dis- 
affected Highlanders again prompted them to raise 
a third rebellion, in which you and your clan formed 
a regiment in that impious service, and in which 
you persevered to the last. The Divine Providence 
at first permitted you to obtain some advantages, 
which has possibly been to give you time to repent 


of your crimes. But who can dive into the secrets 
of the Almighty! At last Heaven raised up a 
great prince, the son of our gracious king, who, 
with courage equal to that of his ancestors, and 
with conduct superior to his years, did, at one blow, 
put an end to all your wicked attempts. 

11 If you had been successful in that rebellion, 
you had been now triumphant with your confe- 
derates, trampling upon the laws of your country, 
the liberties of your fellow-subjects, and on the 
Protestant religion. Tou might have been giving 
the law where you now have received the judg- 
ment of it; and we who are this day your judges 
might have been tried before one of your mock 
courts of judicature, and then you might have 
been satiated with the blood of any name or clan 
to which you have an aversion." 

It must have seemed a solemn mockery to say to 
the prisoner in this denunciatory speech, " James 
Stewart, you have had a very long and most im- 
partial trial. Tou have been prosecuted with all 
the moderation consistent with the crime you stood 
accused of, and your counsel have defended you 
with great ability and with decency." 

Immediately on the sentence of death being 
passed, the prisoner said: 

" My lords, I tamely submit to my hard sen- 


tence. I forgive the jury, and the witnesses, who 
have sworn several things falsely against me; and I 
declare, before the great God and this auditory, 
that I had no previous knowledge of the murder of 
Colin Campell of Glenure, and am as innocent of it 
as a child unborn. lam not afraid to die; but 
what grieves me is my character — that after ages 
should think me capable of such a horrid and bar- 
barous murder." 

He died with dignity. To the end he main- 
tained his innocence, not like one who hoped by 
reiterations or prayers to stay his doom, but calmly 
and temperately, like one fulfilling a duty to his 
name and cause, and seeking only to secure the 
good opinion of the candid. He doubtless felt the 
importance of his position. It was that of no 
common criminal, but of a political martyr to the 
expiring cause of the exiled house. To gratify 
the sad pride of his kinsmen, it was essential that 
he should act the hero, and he was not wanting to 
the occasion. He was enrolled in the catalogue of 
Jacobite martyrs. 

This judicial tragedy, of which an attempt has 
been made to afford an impartial account, may 
seem to throw a weighty scandal on the institu- 
tions of the country where it occurred, and on the 
conduct of the party who bent them to such a 

VOL. I. H 


purpose. But if the scandal be admitted, we may 
pause a moment before holding that it either shows 
the falsity and emptiness of the institutions or the 
depravity of the party. It is of some consequence 
to look to this at a time when in another part of 
the empire we have but just escaped a tampering 
with our popular forensic institutions, which circum- 
stances of emergency appeared to justify. If such 
institutions may be outraged and scandalised, the 
very shape and consequences of such outrage and 
scandal only show the value of preserving the in- 
stitution untouched, that it may be more purely 
administered; and if we compare the trial of James 
Stewart with other events both in our own and 
foreign histories, we may find that it is because jury 
trial was the instrument, and because the Hano- 
verian government were the perpetrators* that the 
case ever became remarkable. Under secret judi- 
cial procedure, and an irresponsible government, it 
would have scarcely been known or noticed beyond 
the province and the generation in. which it oc- 

An unconstitutional government powerful as the 
representative government which ruled Britain after 
the last Jacobite insurrection, would have certainly 
found means of punishing an enemy like James 
Stewart. If such a government found its agents 


shot m the execution of their duty — saw clearly 
that the perpetrators were shielded from justice, and 
helped out of the country, by a numerous band of 
abettors and partisans — and were able to lay hands 
on one man whom they had every reason to believe 
a supporter and shielder of such a murderer, if not 
his employer and instigator, — would they not have 
found means of striking a blow at the system, though 
it were through his life? The only difference in the 
case, had it occurred under an irresponsible govern- 
ment — such a government as the Stewarts tried to 
establish — would have been that the proceedings 
would have been secret. Their exact nature, and the 
precise violations of justice committed in them, 
would have been unknown ; the scandal would 
have been avoided. 

But here everything was open as day. The ar- 
raignment in the midst of enemies — the chief enemy 
of all on the bench; the angry denunciations of the 
law-officers and the judge; the jury of Campbells; 
all these things were published to the world, and 
were eagerly and fiercely commented on. The institu- 
tions were scandalised, but not undermined. True, 
the party accomplished their object— the man was 
hanged. But many a warm friend of the govern- 
ment looked with regret on that conspicuous scene 
of unbridled animosity. The proceedings were 


energetically censured, not only by the Jacobites, 
but by their antipodes, the friends of freedom and 
onward progress. No one dared to defend them. In 
legal commentaries, the trial is always referred to 
as a perversion of justice. For a century it has 
stood forth as a beacon of warning to all who shall 
pervert the great free institutions of the country to 
party purposes. It shows emphatically how these 
institutions have in their publicity an alarm bell, 
that rings loudly, and tells all the world when they 
are bent to unworthy purposes. 





On the 11th of April, 1705, the commander of 
the English trading ship, the Worcester, with two. of 
his crew, were hanged in chains on the sands of 
Leith, having been convicted by the Scottish Court 
of Admiralty of piracy and murder. It was a ge- 
neral impression at the time, that their lives were 
not forfeited to the due administration of justice 
and the punishment of crime, but that their trial 
and execution were virtually a retaliation for national 
injuries, and a flinging of defiance in the face of 
England. The event thus opened to view so dismal 
a gulf of national animosity and unscrupulous hatred, 
that it thoroughly alarmed the friends of peace and 
progress, and urged them to hurry on and complete 


with all practical rapidity that legislative union of 
the two nations which seemed to be the only pro- 
tection from a deadly war, wherein wealth power 
and pride on the one side, would be met by 
courage endurance and unquenchable hatred on the 
other. It may seem strange that occurrences, in them- 
selves full of incident, and immediately productive 
of an event, so important in European history as 
that which, by mutual consent and equal distribu- 
tion of privileges, made two powerful nations be- 
come one, and extinguished the divisions and jea- 
lousies incompatible with the existence of a great 
British empire, should be hitherto so partially and 
inaccurately known, and should remain to be fully 
explained in the middle of the nineteenth century. 
It is not difficult, however, to find the reason of this. 
After the tragedy was accomplished, no party felt 
an interest in too minutely examining the affair of 
Captain Green. , Those who were successful in pur- 
suing him to the scaffold could not very decently 
exult in their triumph, and were not anxious to 
proclaim, if they could even comfortably pass under 
self-examination, the motives on which they had 
acted. The friends of peace and the promoters of 
the union at the same time desired to bury the past 
in oblivion. Thus there was a general disposition 
to " hush up," as it is termed, this untoward afiair; 


and for long years afterwards it would have been 
difficult to say what prejudices and animosities a 
recurrence to it might have aroused. The time has 
now, however, long arrived when its details may be 
laid bare without much danger that the inquirer 
will be misled by national or party prejudices, and 
with still less danger that he can arouse any latent 
antipathies in the reader. 

Although the fate of Green and his fellow- victims 
was produced by a national movement— one of those 
movements in which mercy and justice to indi- 
viduals are too often trodden under the footsteps of 
an excited multitude — the event was immediately 
connected, as its operative cause, with the ruin of 
that celebrated Darien project, from which Scotland 
expected 'so much success, and reaped so much 
calamity. As the same resources which enable the 
present writer to let out long buried light on the 
immediate affair of Captain Green also bear on the 
events that led to it, there would be much«tempta- 
tk>n on this occasion to offer an elucidation of them, 
even if they had less connexion than they have with 
the trial and execution, which join into the history 
of the Darien scheme like the last act of a tragedy* 

* It occurred to the present writer a few years ago; when 
collecting materials for a projected history of Scotland beginning 
after the revolution, to examine the contents of an old oak chest 
which had stood in a cellar of the Advocates' Library ;— he could 


Soon after the establishment of the revolution 
settlement, the ardent feelings of the Scottish people 
were turned out of their old channels of religious 
controversy and war in the direction of commercial 
enterprise. When the crimes and conflicts of Queen 
Mary's day — the plots that made her son's reign 
precarious — the great conflicts of the Common- 
wealth, the persecutions of the Restoration, and the 
reaction of the revolution were all over — the vessel 
of the state, after having been so long tossed and 
strained, felt itself suddenly in the calm waters of 
tranquillity and security. Now, if ever, was the time 
to turn the national energies to those arts of peace, on 
which the impoverished Scots could not help seeing 
that the wealth and power of England were based. 
Nothing but a guiding mind was necessary to con- 
centrate the national ardour, and bear it on upon 

find no means of knowing how long— probably from the period 
of the union. He was surprised, as well as gratified, by the 
richness of this store, consisting of the books and documents of 
the Darien Company and its officers, — many of the most curious 
of them tied up in dusty bundles, which appeared to hare re- 
mained untouched since the dissolution of the company. Some 
of the documents — chiefly bearing on the commercial affairs of 
the company— were lately printed under the superintendence of 
the present writer, for the use of the members of the Bannatyne 
Club. The others, including those relating to the affair of 
Green, remain still in manuscript. Whenever in the follow- 
ing pages no other authority is indicated, this collection of 
documents will be understood to supply the material. 


one great object, and such a mind appeared at the 
time in that of William Paterson. 

A singular mystery hangs over the early history 
of this man. In the old statistical account of Scot- 
land he is claimed as a native of the parish of 
Tinwald, in Dumfriesshire; but there is no visible 
authority for the statement, and no means of know- 
ing that he was a native of Scotland, but the ardent 
patriotism sometimes apparent in his writings. His 
conduct in after life showed that he was familiar 
with distant countries inhabited by savages, and had 
sailed in unknown seas: but on the capacity in 
which he had adventured himself among them the 
assertions of his contemporaries were so conflicting, 
that some said he was a zealous Christian mis- 
sionary; others, that he was a daring pirate, who 
had returned with the earnings of many frightful 
iniquities. We find one of the many phamphleteers 
of the period speaking of him thus: 

44 William Paterson came from Scotland in his 
younger years, with a pack on his back, whereof 
the print may be seen if he be alive. Having 
travelled this country some years, he seated himself 
under the wing of a warm widow near Oxford, 
where, finding that preaching was an easier trade 
than his own, soon found himself gifted with an 
Anadabs spirit. Prophets being generally despised 


at home, he went on the propaganda side account 
to the West Indies, and was one of those who settled 
the island of Providence a second time. Bnt meet- 
ing some hardships and ill-luck there — to wit, a 
governor being imposed on them by the King of 
England, which his conscience could not admit of — 
the property of their constitutions was altered, and 
they could no longer be a free port or sanctuary for 
buccaneers, prates, and such vermin who had most 
need to be reclaimed unto the Church. This dis- 
appointment obliged Praedicant Paterson to shake 
the dust from off his shoes, and leave that island 
under his anathema. He returned to Europe some 
twelve years ago with his head full of projects, 
having all the achievements of Sir Henry Morgan, 
Batt, Sharp, and the buccaneers in his budget He 
endeavoured to make a market of his ware in 
Holland and Hamburg, but without any success. 
He went afterwards to Berlin, opened his pack there, 
and had almost caught the Elector of Brandenburg 
in the noose, but that miscarried too. He likewise 
imparted the same project to Mr. Secretary Blath- 
wait, but still with the same success. 

" Meeting thus with so many discouragements 

in these several countries, he let his project sleep 

for some years, and pitched his tent at London, 

to matter is never wanting to exercise plodding 


heads. His former wife being at rest, as well as his 
project, he wanted a help that was meet for him, 
and not being very nice, went no farther than the 
red-faced coffee woman — a widow in Birchin-lane 
— whom he afterwards carried to the Isthmus of 
Darien; and at her first landing thrust her about 
seven foot under ground, to make die possession de 
facto of New Caledonia more authentic ."* 

Whatever his early life may hare been, it was, at 
all events, apparent that he was a man of correct 
walk and conversation in his mature years. He 
gave expression to many noble sentiments, and ap- 
peared to be ever under the influence of serious, 
religious convictions. " Above all things," he says 
in one of his letters of private counsel, " endeavour 
to cultivate the reverence and respect for God and 
his religion; for in this there is great gain, not only 
in eternity, but in time/' And his correspondence 
is full of similar allusions. Ue had an intellect 
singularly fertile in projects. He usually is called 
the founder of the Bank of England. It would be 
more correct to call him the projector. That he 
first laid out the design of that great corporation is 
admitted by all who have written on its history; 
but his name was not practically' associated with it 
as a director. It haa been usual to say that Patenon 

• A Defence of the Scot* abdicating Darien (1700), pp. 2-4. 


was heartlessly and ungratefully superseded by the 
plodding capitalists, for whose slower wits he had 
designed a fabric of solid fortune; but his connexion 
with the Darien scheme showed -that his capacity 
lay far more in projecting than in executing, and it 
is quite possible that his name was unknown in the 
history of the direction of the bank, simply because 
his colleagues found it necessary to prevent him 
from practically obstructing the project he had so 
ingeniously designed. 

In carrying out a new project with which his 
fertile brain was teeming, Paterson expected, not 
without reason, to find warmer friends and coadjutors 
in his own countrymen, and he succeeded at once 
in securing the resolute championship of Lord 
Belhaven and Fletcher of Saltoun — two impetuous 
patriots, who signalised themselves by the tenacious 
jealousy with which they strove to keep their 
country free from the influence of England. Their 
first step was to obtain an act of the parliament of 
Scotland, incorporating the subscribers as " The 
Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the 
Indies." It was passed in 1695. The act appointed 
half the shares to be held in Scotland, and by Scots- 
men; the other half were open to investment by 

reignera, including Englishmen. It was evidently 
object of the projectors thus to feed their 


patriotic project with English capital, — an attempt 
which led the way to all their subsequent calamities. 
They immediately opened subscription-books in 
London, where they held their meetings, and con- 
ducted all their central operations. Those who were 
jealous of the great English trading monopolists— 
the East India, the Turkey, and the African com- 
panies — seized on the opportunity with avidity, 
and rapidly subscribed the 300,000/. of stock, being 
the half in which foreigners were allowed to invest. 
But the great companies became in their turn 
alarmed and angry. In those days trade jealousies 
were carried out to an exterminating extent, and 
there was no cruelty or hardship, slavery included, 
which men did not consider themselves justified in 
perpetrating " for the promotion of national trade/' 
Parliament readily entered on the matter, and the 
House of Commons appointed a committee "to 
examine what methods were taken for obtaining the 
act of parliament passed in Scotland for the company 
of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies; and 
who were the subscribers thereunto; and who were 
the advisers thereof." Many of the English share- 
holders were examined and thoroughly frightened; 
for to displease the House of Commons, then fresh 
in its revolutionary triumph, was to incur a serious 
calamity. Many excuses were sought for what it 


rault, do subscribe for three thousand pounds stir- 
ling." And then follow the Countess of Rothes, the 
Earl of Hadington, the Earl of Hopeton, &c. 

On the first day the amount subscribed was 
50,400/. The capital of the company was limited to 
400,000/., and before the end of March the half of 
it was subscribed. The books were announced to 
\>e closed on the 3rd of August, and on the 1st the 
whole capital was subscribed. Though the railway 
bills in Scotland for one year — 1846 — authorised 
the raising of upwards of sixteen millions, yet, so 
extreme was the poverty of the country before the 
union, that the engaging for a fortieth part of the 
amount was considered a greater marvel. Many 
were the devices adopted and the sacrifices made 
by those who were most resolute to partake in the 
scheme. Old family estates were sold or mortgaged, 
unwilling debtors were pushed for payment, and 
small driblets of money were collected into one 
focus. An examination of the books shows that, 
with every effort that could be made, the amount 
had slightly exceeded the capacity of the country. 
Two of the heaviest adventurers appear in the sub- 
scription-book to have come forward for second 
subscriptions of 10007. each, which they held for 
the company " to complete the quota of 400,000/. 


While the Scots were urged on by a mixed 
feeling of enthusiastic patriotism and speculative 
ambition, they encountered the wrath and ridi- 
cule of their haughty neighbours of England. 
Abundant were the pasquinades heaped on the 
beggarly rivals of English enterprise* An extract 
from one effusion, called " Caledonia, or the Pedlar 
turned Merchant — a Tragi-Comedy," may suffice as 
an indication of their spirit: 

" Her neighbours she saw, and cursed them and their gains, 
Had gold as they yentured in search on't; 
And why should not she, who had guts in her brains, 
From a pedlar turn likewise a merchant? 

" Such a number of scrawls, and poot-hooks, and marks, 
No parish beside this could boast; 
As the knights of the thistle, fine blew-ribband sparks, 
Set their hands with the knights of the post. 

" The nobles, for want of the ready, made o'er 
Their estates to promote the design, 
And in quality capitals owned they were poor, 
And perfectly strangers to com. 

" The clergy (mistake me not), those who could read, 
Sold their Cabin, and Baxter, and Knox; 
And turning the whites of their eyes to succeed, 
Blessed the pieces, and paid for large stocks/' 

To the question, what was to be done with the 
money thus collected? the answer might be given 
in the brief expression — Everything. The com- 
pany were to trade in all kinds of commodities to 
all parts of the world. They were to be ship- 

TOL. i. I 


owners, agriculturists, and manufacturers. The 
minute-books show, in rich confusion, engage- 
ments for the purchase or making of serges, swords, 
pistols, stockings, shoes, nails, combs, buttons, 
knives, barrels of ale, hides, horn-spoons, and 
hunting-knives. They begun to build warerooms 
beyond the city wall of Edinburgh, and close by 
the Bristo Port. Conducting all their operations on 
a grand and liberal scale, their edifices were erected 
in the style of the French palaces. A fragment of 
one of them, noticeable for its commanding and 
symmetrical design, still exists, and, alas ! too charac- 
teristically serves the purpose of a pauper lunatic 
asylum for the city of Edinburgh. The company 
were to be the general underwriters and bankers for 
Scotland. While the present writer was examining 
their books, a hard, metallic substance dropped out 
of one of them, and rung upon the floor; it was 
the copper plate on which the blank for their bank- 
notes was engraved. A check-book showed that 
they had issued them to the extent of several 
thousands of pounds. 

But the grand project of the company, and that 
in which it suffered so disastrous a shipwreck, was 
announced in these terms: 

" Resolved, that a settlement or settlements be 
made with all convenient speed upon some island, 


river, or place in Africa or the Indies, or both, for 
establishing and promoting the trade and naviga- 
tion of this company." 

Here we find abundant traces* of the restless 
organising spirit of Paterson. The committee of 
foreign trade have repeated entries in their minntes 
about " several manuscript books, journals, reckon- 
ings, exact eliminated maps, and other papers of 
discovery in Africa and the East and West Indies, 
produced by Mr. Paterson," and "upon hearing 
and examining several designs and schemes of trade 
and discovery by him proposed," it was resolved, 
" that some particular discoveries of the greatest 
moment to the designs of this company ought to 
be committed to writing and sealed by Mr. Pater- 
son, and not opened but by special order of the 
court of directors, and that only when the aflairs of 
the company shall of necessity require the same." 

It was not wonderful that a mysterious grandeur 
surrounded the secret suggestions of the schemer, 
and that a whisper went abroad that Scotland was 
about with ease to achieve one of the greatest commer- 
cial triumphs since the discovery of the New World. 
The project still charms us by its greatness, and 
notwithstanding its failure at that time, its practical 
wisdom is attested by the fact that Britain and the 
United States are now occupied in carrying it out. 


The plan was to take possession of the Isthmus of 
Darien or Panama, establish free ports on either coast, 
and be the channel of all the commerce between 
the east and the west of the Old World, and 
the two seaboards of the New. Two paragraphs 
selected from the many documents written by 
Paterson, will serve to show the vastness of his 
views, and the persuasive power with which he ex- 
pressed them : 

" The time and expense of navigation to China, 
Japan, the Spice Islands, and the far greatest part 
of the East Indies, will be lessened more than half, 
and the consumption of European commodities and 
manufactures will soon be more than doubled. 
Trade will increase trade, and money will beget 
money, and the trading world shall need no more 
to want work for their hands, but will rather want 
hands for their work. Thus this door of the seas 
and key of the universe, with anything of a reason- 
able management, will of course enable its pro- 
prietors to give laws to both oceans, and to become 
arbitrators of the commercial world, without being 
liable to the fatigues, expenses, and dangers, in 
contracting the guilt and blood of Alexander and 
Ceesar. In all our empires that have been anything 
like universal, the conquerors have been obliged to 
seek out and court their conquests from afar; but 


the universal force and influence of this attractive 
magnet is such as can much more effectually bring 
empire home to the proprietor's door. 

" But from what hath been said, you may easily 
perceive that the nature of these discoveries are 
such as not to be engrossed by any one nation or 
people with exclusion to others ; nor can it be thus 
attempted without evident hazard and ruin, as we 
see in the case of Spain and Portugal, who by their 
prohibiting any other people to trade, or so much as to 
go to or dwell in the Indies, have not only lost that 
trade they were not able to maintain, but have de- 
populated and ruined their countries therewith; so 
that the Indies have rather conquered Spain and 
Portugal than they have conquered the Indies. 
For by their permitting all to go out and none to 
come in, they have not only lost the people which 
are gone to these remote and luxuriant regions, but 
such as remain are become wholly unprofitable and 
good for nothing. Thus, not unlike the case of the 
dog in the fable, they have lost their own country, 
and yet not gotten the Indies. People and their 
industry are the true riches of a prince or nation; 
and in respect to them all other things are but 
imaginary. This was well understood by the people 
of Rome, who, contrary to the maxims of Sparta 
and Spain, by general naturalisation, liberty of 


conscience, and immunity of government, far more 
effectually and advantageously conquered and kept 
the world, than ever they did or possibly could have 
done by the sword."* 

Such were the preliminaries on which a small 
fleet sailed from Leith Roads on the 26th of July, 
1698, under propitious sunshine, and amidst the 
plaudits of an excited multitude, congregated from 
all the southern districts of Scotland. 

On the 30th of October, a passenger who kept a 
diary records that they " anchored in a fine bay, 
about six leagues to the west of the Gulf of Darien. 
There came two canoes, with several Indians on 
board. They were very free, and not at all shy. 
They spoke some few words of English and indif- 
ferent Spanish. We gave them victuals and drink, 
which they used very freely, especially the last. In 
their cups we endeavoured to pump them, who told 
us they had expected us these two years; that we 
were very welcome; and that all the country was at 
war with the Spaniard. They got drunk and lay on 
board all night. In the morning, when they went 
away, they got each an old hat, a few twopenny 
glasses and knives, with which they seemed ex- 
tremely pleased." 

In a short time, the most brilliant hopes of the 
* Daliymple'f Memoirs, it, 118. 


adventurers appeared to be more than realised. The 
settlers wrote home about the gold dust found on 
the shore, deposited from the sand taken up in 
wooden ladles. They mentioned the excellent game 
and the pleasant hunting parties. One writer not 
tmpoetically described a pleasure party resting at 
night in hammocks of silk grass: "The night was 
pleasant and refreshing, and everybody slept as well 
as if he had been in the best furnished chamber; 
there was all round a mighty silence, and the 
pleasant murmuring of the wind in the tops of the 
trees gently moved us to sleep."* He spoke of u that 
delicious fruit called the pine-apple, shaped some- 
thing like an artichoke, as big as a man's head/ 9 
which grows wild and ripens abundantly at all times 
of the year, "and seems to taste of all the delicious 
fruits together;" and the vegetable marrow, which 
" has a thousand delights in its taste, and may sup- 
ply the defects of all sorts of fruits/'f With such 
luxurious commodities were mingled many of a 
more vulgar but not unimportant order — sugar- 
canes, spices, and dye-woods. 

On the 26th of December, 1698, a despatch from 
the council of the colony stated that its " health, 

* The History of Caledonia, &c* by a Gentleman lately ar- 
rired. 1699. P. 42. 
t P. 47. 


fruitfulness, and good situation/' exceeded their ex- 

" In fruitfulness this country seems not to give 
place to any in the world; for we have seen several 
of the fruits, as cocoa-nuts, whereof chocolate is 
made, bonellos, sugar-canes, maize, oranges, plan- 
tains, mango, yams, and several others, all of them 
of the best of their kind anywhere found. 

" Nay, there is hardly a spot of ground here but 
what may be cultivated; for even upon the veiy 
tops and sides of the hills and mountains there is 
commonly three or four feet deep of rich earth, 
without so much as a stone to be found therein. 
Here is good hunting and fowling, and excellent 
fishing in the bays and creeks of the coast. ,,# 

Paterson gave assurance of that most tempting of 
all glittering bates — gold — being abundant in the 
colony. " Besides the mines," he said, " already 
discovered and wrought, the gold found in the sands 
of almost every river near your settlement, and 
other things observable, do sufficiently demonstrate 
that there still remain other great and valuable dis- 
coveries to be made." We now, at all events, know 
that the precious metal is found at no great distance 
from Darien; and as a colony of the Scottish or any 
other persevering people settled there must have in 
* Quoted, Inquiry into the Causes, &o, p. 104. 


time discovered the neighbouring mines of metallic 
riches, one cannot help feeling that the untimely 
fate of this enterprise may be said to have changed 
the history of Europe, by delaying for upwards of 
a century and a half the development of a source 
of enterprise, which, if possessed by Britain in 
William DDL's reign, might have materially affected 
the character and progress of British colonisation 
and commerce. The deposits of gold dust in the 
sand taken up in wooden ladles are entirely in ac- 
cordance with Californian experience, and one would 
readily and naturally believe in such a feature, if 
told of Darien and its neighbourhood, at the present 
day. Yet so had fate determined to blast all the 
brilliant visions of these adventurers, like the fiends 
who turn ill-gotten wealth to heaps of rubbish, that 
what had been mistaken for gold dust was found — 
at least so the colonists in their disappointment said 
— to be nothing more valuable than a glittering 
micacious schist. 

The first calamities suffered by the colonists were 
from the enmity of the Spaniards. Treaties were 
made with the neighbouring chiefs — willing, like 
all savage leaders, to make with any one any kind 
of agreement that promised immediate profit. But 
the Spaniards professed to have an indefinite empire 
in Central America, and it was clear that if they 


could they would drive out any other nation endea- 
vouring to settle there. They maintained that die 
settlement was an infringement of the treaty of 
Ryswick, and it was natural that they should be 
unable to comprehend that Scotland was a free 
country with an independent legislation, not bound 
to fulfil the conditions undertaken for England. The 
Spanish ambassador presented a formal memorial 
against the colony at the court of St. James's ; and it 
is said that he was induced to do so, not by the in* 
structions of his own court, but through English and 
Dutch trade influence. At the commencement of 
the year 1699 an engagement, or rather a skirmish, 
took place between the colonists and a party of 
Spaniards, in which, according to the Scottish 
account^, the enemy were signally beaten. Still a 
return of two killed and twelve wounded was made, 
which stung the national feeling with a sense of 
outrage unavenged, A vessel belonging to the com- 
pany, having stuck on a rock near Carthagena, was 
seized by the governor, and the crew were impri- 
soned. The company sent a. messenger with ere* 
dentials to complain of this outrage; but as the 
council reported to their constituents at home r 
u the governor having called a council, and broke 
open our letters, threw them away, with the act of 
parliament and letters patent, in a most disdainful 


manner, calling us rogues and pirates." In the 
mean time the crew of the vessel were sent to 
Spain, where they were formally tried and con- 
demned to death as pirates. They were not exe- 
cuted, the affair of the trial evidently being intended 
more for diplomatic than judicial purposes, but they 
were subjected to all the hardships and ignominies 
of criminals, and the exasperation of their country- 
men was fed by the intentional publicity given to 
proceedings which it was known that the king 
would not resent. Copies and translations of the 
judicial documents are among the business papers 
of the company, and some of them seem to be odd 
enough. Thus a document professing to be a judg- 
ment of a Spanish court, after a preamble, proceeds 

" The declaration being perused, we find that we 
ought to condemn, and do condemn, Captain Robert 
Paton, I}. Spence, John Malach, and James Gra- 
ham to die: the form how, is reserved to us; and 
that David Wilson be set at liberty for being under 
age; and we do confiscate all the goods of the said 
four persons, and all the merchandise of the ship 
Dolphin: and to the intent it may be executed so, 
'tis ordered that a copy of this sentence, authenti- 
cated, be sent to Carthagena, and that the goods 
being sold to be at the king's disposal, &c, and 


finding by said declaration, &c, to be guilty the 
Duke of Hamilton, my Lord Pemur [Panmure], 
the Marquis of Tevathall [Marquis of Tweeddale], 
and the rest of the persons in Scotland who formed 
this company without the king's leave 'to invade 
and settle, 'tis just they should be punished for the 
preservation .and good peace of the two crowns 
Spain and England; all which ought to be made 
known to the King of England by the ambassador 
there, and the ill consequences that may follow to 
all Europe by such proceedings." 

But the poor colonists had to encounter enemies 
worse even than the Spaniards. While their fellow- 
countrymen of Scotland, on hearing of their safe 
and triumphant arrival, were holding illuminations, 
ringing bells, and returning thanks in the churches, 
disease was breaking the spirits and thinning the 
numbers of the adventurers. The hardy Scots 
were prepared for danger and conflict — foj all that 
the courage of man could accomplish, and all that 
a frame braced by the north wind and the storm 
could meet and resist. But they were not prepared 
for the insidious miasmas of the tropics — the deep 
masses of rotting vegetable matter which steam forth 
poison under the burning sun — for the jungles where 

" The deadly vines do weep 
Their venemous tears, and nightly steep 
The flesh with blistering dew." 


For such an evil they seemed to have been totally 
and recklessly unprepared. In the depression pro- 
duced by sickness and misfortune, the colonists now 
began to ask each other for what they had emi- 
grated? They were, it is true, to be the great 
channel of the world's trade, but somehow »or other 
it was not coming their way. In fact, they were 
isolated from all the world ; for not only the Spanish, 
but even the French, who were contemplating set- 
tlement in Central America, counted them inter- 
lopers, while their English fellow-subjects, as we 
shall see, were their worst enemies. No arrange- 
ment had been made rapidly to supply them with 
necessaries from home. The intervening season was 
one of scarcity and hardship in Scotland, and in 
the earliest despatches which the settlers received, 
they were told that they could get nothing from 
the scanty stores of their own country, but were 
furnished with letters of credit on the English 
colonies — letters which were not honoured, for the 
reasons presently to be mentioned. 

The policy and schemes of King William were 
greatly disturbed by this project. He could not 
afford to quarrel with the great mercantile interests 
of England, which, as we have seen, declared deadly 
hostility to the new adventure, and, indeed, to any 
attempts on the part of Scotland to compete with 


them in trade and colonisation. To the address of 
the House of Commons against the company already 
mentioned, he made answer, " That he had been ill 
served in Scotland, but he hoped some remedies 
might be found to prevent the inconveniences which 
might arise from the act."* The king dismissed 
some of his Scottish ministers, and endeavoured 
to adjust the official administration of the country 
to his views, but no minister dared to check the 
national feeling, or was prepared to purchase the 
countenance of the king by services which would 
be branded as the grossest national treachery. Thus 
the king could not oppose the movement in Scot- 
land, but he was resolved that it should have rather 
discouragement than assistance elsewhere. The 
remonstrances of Spain justified his severity, and 
completed all that was wanting to his determination 
to baffle the project, and undermine the company. 
He would not have permitted any interest, which he 
viewed even with partiality, to interfere with his 
European policy. His great aim was to destroy the 
continental preponderance of France, and he would 
not at that time have permitted the most cherished 
national interests of Scotland to involve him in a 
dispute with Spain. He therefore unhesitatingly 
abandoned the projectors to the mercy of that 
* Pari. Hist, v., 976. 


power, and allowed it to be understood that the 
Scottish act of parliament and letters patent were 
mere waste paper. But not content with thus aban- 
doning them, he instructed the governors of the 
colonies in the Atlantic, through the English 
secretary of state, to issue proclamations against 
them. The form of proclamation adopted was : " I 
do strictly charge and require all and every his 
majesty's subjects that upon no pretence whatever 
they hold any correspondence with the Scots afore- 
said, or give them any assistance with arms, ammu- 
nition, provision, or anything whatsoever, either by 
themselves, or any other for them; nor assist them 
with any of their shipping, or of the English 
nations, upon pain of his majesty's displeasure, 
and suffering the severest punishment." 

In these circumstances, the failure to supply the 
colonists with provisions was equivalent to leaving 
them to starvation, since the English colonies dared 
not if they would supply them according to the 
credit sent out from Scotland. After having re- 
mained for seven months, every day seeing their 
numbers decrease, the abject remnant took to their 
ships as the last resort. A fellow-countryman, who 
saw some of them seeking refuge in New York, 
observed that the necessity which had driven them 
forth could easily be inferred, " for famine and death 


were discernible in their countenances at the first 
aspect." Paterson's spirit stood out to the last. 
Even in the death-blow of the proclamations he 
could see no absolute reason for abandoning the 
enterprise, and proposed that the colonists should take 
to the vessels, " and live upon turtling and fishing 
for some time, till we should see if any news or re- 
cruits came from Scotland." In his official report 
to his constituents he gave this pathetic account of 
his difficulties : " Although considering our low and 
depressed condition for want of supplies, the pro- 
hibiting the king's English subjects from trading, 
or so much as corresponding with us, was very dis- 
couraging, yet the declaring we had broken the 
peace, and by consequence declaring us pirates be- 
fore we had been once heard or summoned to 
answer, so very contrary to the usual proceeding 
even in case of real piracy, was most of all sur- 
prising, and became the general occasion of people's 
concluding, that the long silence of our country 
proceeded from no other cause but that they were 
browbeaten out of it, and durst not so much as 
send word to us to shift for ourselves." When 
the final departure took place, his spirit, so long 
unnaturally maintained, broke at once, and in 
the expressive terms of a bystander, "The grief 
has broke Mr. Paterson's heart and brain, and 


now he's a child, they may do what they will for 

The fugitives embarked, without any distinct 
intentions, "for the first port Providence might 
carry them to," as one who witnessed their 
departure expressed it. They set sail in three 
ships, which from sickness and extermination they 
were unable to manage in any but the finest wea- 
ther. Of the first of the vessels which reached 
New York, the company's correspondent said : " The 
Caledonia^ which weighed anchor first, has thrown 
overboard one hundred men who died since they 
left Darien, their whole complement or equal share 
of men being but three hundred in all. And yet 
they reckon themselves the healthiest ship of all the 
three; and, notwithstanding of all this, they have 
loosed and are loosing men who are dying daily 
in this place since their arrival." 

It was made a question of difficulty whether, after 
the king's proclamations, the unfortunate fugitives 
could be on any terms supplied with food. It was 
at once decided that they could not traffic for it: 
and it was only at last by humanity prevailing 
over prudence that they were permitted to pur- 
chase, on the credit of the company, the food neces- 
sary to sustain life. In the West Indies, the pro- 
clamations were more sternly interpreted, and one 



of the vessels landing at Port Royal was seized 
and condemned as a prize; but this proceeding was 
not sanctioned by the home government, and the 
vessel was subsequently released. 

So far the history of the Darien expedition ap- 
pears to be a narrative of pure oppression by a 
strong country on a weak. Justice, however, re- 
quires the investigator, writing after the lapse of a 
century and a half has buried the sufferings and 
animosities of persons and nations, to show that the 
company were not utterly blameless martyrs. They 
had mistaken their capacity when they tried to 
compete with the long-practiced traders of England. 
Their goods were ill-sorted; they did not know 
how to trade in them; they wanted extravagant 
profits, and did not readily adopt the merchants' 
doctrine of submitting to fate and selling off 
miscalculated merchandise at what it will bring. 
Worse still — instead of having the government of 
their colony firmly attached to a predominant home 
administration — at least, until it could govern itself 
— it was embarked with a general license to make 
a constitution for itself. It might be maintained 
that there was in this more of necessity than choice; 
since the king had cast off, instead of cherishing 
and protecting, the infant colony. This should have 
rendered it more imperative on those who managed 


the expedition to have a system of government 
organised beforehand, -which — if it were not enforce- 
able by a central regal authority — might at all events 
have the sanction of the holders of the purse at 
home, who should aid the colony with the large 
funds subscribed to the company, so far as it 
followed the constitution under which it was de- 
spatched, but no further. A very ingenious con- 
stitution was framed for the colony, but it was un- 
fortunately framed by the colonists themselves, in- 
stead of by those who had sent them out, and thus 
wanted central controlling authority. Each member 
of the colony was at liberty to struggle for power 
and emolument; and the conflict was one in which 
the unscrupulous appear to have often gained their 
tads, by the submission of those who thought that 
any system of rule was better than anarchy. An elec- 
tive president was appointed. Paterson desired that 
ibis officer should at least hold power for a month. 
Bat he was among spirits too impatient to submit 
to even so long an inequality, and the insane ar- 
rangement of shifting the president every week was 
adopted. Selfish as they were, the aims of the 
leading colonists naturally grouped themselves into 
partisanship; and among others there were the 
seamen's and the landsmen's parties, each hating and 
undermining the other. In the midst of their 


common miseries they could not abstain from 
treasuring up accusations against each other to 
perplex and further distress their fellow-sufferers in 

But an investigation of their private papers gives 
reason for suspecting that they were not entirely 
free of the great maritime vice of the age, which 
simply consisted in those who had a force on the 
high seas confounding friends and enemies. One of 
the great causes of alarm to the colonists— one of 
those things which seem to have so utterly paralysed 
them — was a rumour, which some of them mention 
in their private letters, that the harshness of 
William III. towards them was merely a prepara- 
tion for their being, so soon as they could be appre- 
hended, tried and hanged as pirates. Now, singular 
as it may appear, since no such charge against 
them seems ever to have been made even by their 
enemies — a charge which one would think the go- 
vernment of William would have followed up with 
the utmost rigour — there is reason, from their own 
private papers, to believe that they were not quite 
clear on this matter, and that conscience made 
cowards of them. Not that, supposing the inference 
from what we are going to quote to be even of 
the most unfavourable kind, it is to be con- 
founded with ordinary robber piracy. In the high 


seas at that time there were alliances and conflicts, 
peace and war, without reference to treaties and 
declarations issued at Paris and London. Each 
European war lingered and died gradually away in 
the conflicts of half-privateer, half-pirate vessels, 
among the keys of the American gulfs, and some 
European wars had their first commencement in 
like distant conflicts. The Darien colonists were, 
perhaps, no nicer than their neighbours; and it was 
difficult for them to point out their friends— easy 
enough to find their enemies. French and Spanish 
vessels they appear to have seized when they 
could; they considered themselves at war with these 
nations. But they appear also to have laid hands 
on an English colonial vessel — a daring act, to say 
the least of it. Paterson, in his private report, speaks 
of it as a matter deeply to be regretted, and explains 
how he himself had been involved in it. A boat's 
crew from a Jamaica vessel had been detained on 
shore, under the plea that a boy belonging to the 
colony was confined in the vessel. The boy made 
his appearance, either having been released or never 
having been kidnapped, but still the boat's crew 
were detained. Patereon then proceeds to relate 
what followed in a manner which leaves much to be 

"Mr. Wilmot stayed till the afternoon; and 


before he went away I came to Mr. Mackay's hut, 
and Mr. Wilmot came also to take Lis leave. The 
rest of the councillors were then together, and upon 
my coming they call me in, and Mr. Mackay pre- 
sents me a paper to sign, which contained a warrant 
to Captain Robert Drummond to take boats and go 
and bring in Captain Mathias his sloop. When I 
asked what reasons they had for it, Mr. Mackay 
answered, that they were informed that this sloop 
was a Spanish sloop, and was fraughted by three 
Spanish captains now on board her, and bound for 
Portubell, with I know not what, for a treasure of 
gold and silver bars; and added, I warrant you will 
not meddle, for your friend Mr. Wilmot is con- 
cerned. This usage did not please me. But, how-* 
ever, I told them if she was a Spanish sloop I was 
as ready as they; but if belonging to any other 
nation I would not be concerned. But, however, 
I signed the warrant to bring in the sloop. When 
she was brought, instead of a Spanish we found her 
a Jamaica sloop with two Spanish passengers, and, 
as I heard, about eighty or one hundred pounds 
value in pieces of eight, Spanish pistolls, and gold 
dust When I found this I must needs say I was 
very angry, and endeavoured to get the sloop and 
men discharged next day, as being an English bot- 
tom. To this effect I laid the law before Pennicook, 


and afterwards to Mr. Mackay, who, by this time, 
had brought the men and money out of the sloop. 
Upon this I said I would write home on this matter, 
and then left them. Upon this occasion, God 
knows, my concern was not upon my own account, 
or any humour of my own, but the true love of 
justice and good of the colony; in which concern 
and spirit I heartily wished that they might not 
have cause to repent of their inhuman usage of 
those before any other friendly strangers came to 
visit them — or to this effect. When I was gone, 
there was a council called, consisting of Pennicook, 
Mackay, Montgomery, and Jolly, where, as the 
secretary told me afterwards, they confirmed the 
taking of the two Spaniards and the money from 
on board the Jamaica sloop." 

It is singular that through all the fierce contro- 
versy of the day, the admission of a charge mak- 
ing apparently a close approach to piracy, should 
lie among the private papers of the company 
unnoticed until the middle of the nineteenth 
century; but a reason for this has been already sug- 
gested. On poor Paterson this affair appears to 
have pressed along with his other troubles; and he 
speaks with all the true pathos of simple sincerity 
about the condition to which personal disease, the 


misfortunes of his friends, and his own baffled 
hopes, had conspired to sink him: 

" About the 5th of June, I was taken very ill of 
a fever; but trouble of mind, as I found afterwards, 
was none of the least causes thereof. By the 9th 
or 10th of June, all the councillors and most of the 
officers, with their baggage, were on board the seve- 
ral ships, and I left alone on shore in a weak con- 
dition. None visited me except Captain Thomas 
Drummond, who, with me, still lamented our 
thoughts of leaving the place, and praying God 
that we might but hear from our country before 
we left the coast; but others were in so great haste, 
that all the guns in the fort, at least those belong- 
ing to the St. Andrew, had been left behind but for 
the care and vigilance of Captain Thomas Drum- 

" In my sickness, besides the general concern of 
my spirits, I was much troubled by a report spread 
abroad of Captain Pennicook as designing to run 
away with the ship, on pretence that we were pro- 
claimed pirrots (pirates), and should be all hanged 
when we came home — or, at least, the company 
would never pay the seamen their wages." 

It was in the latter end of the month of June 
that the shattered remnant of the colony left their 


forts and huts. The heads of the company at 
home, who had heard little but exulting news from 
the expedition, were in the mean time fitting out 
a reinforcement. The vessels were just about to 
depart from the west coast of Scotland, when the 
directors received through private and circuitous 
sources indirect mutterings, which gradually grew 
into distinct announcements of some terrible cala- 
mity having swept their original colony from the 
spot on which they were supposed to be lengthen- 
ing their ropes and strengthening their stakes. But 
while they were yet unauthenticated, the new ex- 
pedition were warned not to believe in these idle 
rumours. The directors thus address them when 
wavering on departure (22nd September, 1699): 
" We are advised of a story made and propagate in 
England, viz., that the Scots have deserted their 
colony of Caledonia for fear of the Spaniards at Car- 
tagena, an enemy that take much tyme before they 
be ready to make any attack, and of whom we never 
heard that our people were afrayd. The story is 
altogether malicious and. false, and is contrived on 
purpose to discourage people to go to our colony 
with provisions, &c., since they find their proclama- 
tions in the West Indies, and all their other me* 
thods against, has not had the designed effect." 
But when the rumour was confirmed, and the new 


expedition had sailed, they had to send after it 
despatches of a different character, — which yet, in 
the admission of disaster, bore a tone of high resolu- 
tion and proud defiance, — instructing them, should 
the fort be in possession of enemies, immediately to 
besiege it and attempt its recovery. This second 
detachment came, however, to a more rapidly fatal 
termination than the first. The solitude and silence, 
where they expected to find a busy, prosperous 
colony, sent an immediate chill to their hearts, with 
which they were unable to combat. Illness and 
mortality attacked them; their best vessel was 
burned, and speedily they resolved to depart from 
the scene of disaster; all, save eight, who bravely 
determined to cast their lot with a third detach- 
ment, whom they believed to be then in the 

This last body was of a thorougly warlike cha- 
racter, for it was fitted up after the news of Spanish, 
French, and even English hostility to the project 
had reached Scotland. The commissions granted 
to the commanders of the vessels had an evident 
reference to the probability of hostile encounters 
with English vessels. They were in these defying 

" You are hereby ordered not to suffer, so far as 
you are able, the said company's ship under your 


command to be insulted during the voyage by the 
ships of war of any nation, nor to search your said 
ship, nor suffer your men to be pressed on any pre- 
tence whatsoever. But by force of arms, if need 
be, you are to defend your trade and navigation 
pursuant to the powers and privileges granted to our 
company by the act of parliament herewith de- 
livered unto you. Nor are you to have regard to 
any order which the commanders of any ships of 
war or others may happen to pretend for searching, 
pressing, or detaining, as aforesaid, unless the same 
be signed by the king, and countersigned either by 
the king, or his secretary of state for the kingdom 
of Scotland, — for doing whereof this shall be to you 
a sufficient warrant." 

This third detachment appears to have started in 
ignorance of even the first desertion of the colony. 
They were prepared to see the original settlement 
flourishing and augmented. What they found may 
be told in the words of one of their chaplains: 

"Upon our arrival in this new world we met 
with a sorrowful and crushing-like dispensation, for, 
expecting here to meet with our friend* and coun- 
trymen, we found nothing but a waste, howling 
wilderness — the colony deserted and gone — their 
huts all burned— their fort most part ruined — the 
ground which they had cleared adjoining to the 


fort all overgrown -with shrubs and weeds. We 
looked for peace, but we found war; and for a 
time of health and comfort, but behold trouble. 
Our arrival at this place was much like David's 
coming with his little army to Ziklag of old, where, 
expecting to meet with their friends and relations 
in peace, they found the town burnt and laid 
waste, their relations all gone they knew not 
whither, so that the people lift up their voice and 
wept sore. Our disappointment was like theirs in 
Job vi., 19, 20: "The troops of Tema looked, 
the companies of Sheba waited for them. They 
were confounded because they had hoped; they came 
thither, and were ashamed." It was, therefore, no 
wonder that our people were sadly discouraged upon 
their coming thither, and the rather because they 
were ill-fitted and furnished to begin a new planta- 
tion, and had not materials suitable to such a design, 
which they expected to find here before them. Our 
party were not sent forth to settle a colony, but only 
to be a recruit and supply to a colony which we 
expected in some measure already settled, and 
sufficiently furnished with tools and instruments 
for such a design."* 

The reverend gentleman who thus writes was 

* The History of Darien, by the Rev. Francis Borland, p. 30. 


sent, with others, by the Church of Scotland, to 
take the spiritual command of the new empire. 
They received a pretty broad commission " to take 
charge of the souls of the colony, and to erect a 
presbytery, with a moderator, clerk, and record of 
proceedings, to appoint ruling elders, deacons, over- 
seers of the manners of the people, and assistants in 
the exercise of Church discipline and government, 
and to hold regular kirk sessions." According to 
Sir John Dalrymple, the clergymen endeavoured to 
stretch their discipline very far. He says — what, 
however, we have not seen any earlier authority for 
— that " they exhausted the spirits of the people, 
by requiring their attendance at sermon four or five 
hours at a stretch, relieving each other by preaching 
alternately, but allowing no relief to their hearers. 
The employment of one of the days set aside for 
religious exercise, which was a Wednesday, they 
divided into three parts — thanksgiving, humiliation, 
and supplication, in which three ministers followed 
each other. And as the service of the Church of 
Scotland consists of a lecture with a comment, a 
sermon, two prayers, three psalms, and a blessing, 
the work of that day, upon an average of the length 
of the service of that age, could not take up less 
than twelve hours, during which space of time the 
colony was collected, and kept close together in the 


guard-room, which was used as a church, in a 
tropical climate, and in a sickly season."* 

These clergymen appear to have been influenced 
by a very honest and sincere zeal, but, far from being 
able to make a presbytery with its kirk services, 
they got no better accommodation than the cabins , 
in which they had sailed; and Mr. Borland almost 
poetically says, " When the ministers here did meet, 
it was ordinarily in the dark and silent woods — 
inter densas urnbrosa cacumina sylvasj — where, I 
suppose, such guests and exercises never had been 
before." The rev. gentleman indeed appears to 
have seriously lost his temper under the slights and 
hardships which he endured. The absence of any 
great predominant power at sea, such as Britain now 
wields, made almost all the colonists and distant 
traders of thtft day lax, rough-handed, and unscrupu- 
lous. Yet let us hope that the rev. gentleman's 
account of his fellow-colonists must be at least as 
great an exaggeration as Sir John Dalrymple's ac- 
cusation of clerical domination. " The source, 1 ' he 
says, " and fountain, and cause of all our miseries, 
we brought from our own country with us, arising 
from the inconsiderate choice that was made there 

* Dabymple's Memoirs, iL, 99. 

t Sylvas should hefagos. The quotation is from the Eclogue 
to Alexis—an odd one for a clergyman to cite. 


of the worst of men to go along with us, that ever 
were sent to command or serve in a colony, which, 
in the judgment of God, our land hath spewed forth 
as its scum; and no spot on God's earth can retain 
or receive, but as a burthen to it." And he and 
his brethren, reporting to their constituents in 
Scotland, summed up the iniquities of the spot 
in these forcible words: "There have abounded, 
and do still remain among us, such abominations 
as the rudest heathens, from the light of nature, 
do abhor; such as atheistical swearing and curs- 
ing, brutish drunkenness, detestable lying and 
prevaricating, obscene and filthy talking, mock- 
ing of godliness ; yea, and among too many of 
the meaner sort, base thieving and pilfering, 
besides Sabbath-breaking, contempt of all Gospel 
ordinances, &c, which are stumbling to the very 
Indians, opprobrious to the Christian name, and 
reproachful to the Church and nation to which we 

It would be uncandid to represent this as an 
unsupported condemnation by the clerical ministers 
of the colony. Four of the council, reporting to the 
directors at home, complain of some of their ser- 
vants who have " proven knaves;" and this prompts 
ihem to say : " We are vexed beyond measure with 
hearing, judging, and punishing them and other 
• DabympteiiL, 100. 


rascals, of which kind there was never so great a 
collection among so few men." But, in truth, they 
were all disappointed and desperate — they had gone 
where all example was that of the buccaneer and 
pirate; their own country's government could not 
protect them — the hands of all others were against 
them. They were driven into ruffianism; and an 
attempt made by some of the sailors to seize one of 
the vessels and make off with it, was but a natural re- 
sult of the chaotic and helpless condition of this poor 
colony from the beginning. Everything was again 
involved in miserable and palpable mismanagement. 
" Whereas/' says one of the reports, " there were 
ample accounts given of the natives being at war 
with the Spaniards, and that they were our fast 
friends, we find two of their captains, viz., Pedro 
and Augustine, with silver-headed staves as Spanish 
captains, willing, notwithstanding, to go with us and 
plunder the Spaniards, as, no doubts they would do 
us, if the Spaniards would help them." And, in 
another report, with many complaints of embezzle- 
ments and dishonesties, they thus speak of their 
commercial position with a kind of ludicrous help- 
lessness: "We cannot conceive for what end so 
much thin grey paper and so many little blue bon- 
nets were sent here, being utterly useless, and not 
worth their room in a ship. It cannot be unknown 
to your honours .that we have not 50/. sterling of 


vendible goods belonging to the company, and 
therefore our relief — if we get any — must come from 
Scotland, either in provisions, or credit which can 
be effectual, ere we starve for want." The directors 
at home, however, still talked big; and there is 
something sadly ridiculous in the antithetic tone of 
the communications which crossed each other, and 
now lie side by side in the old press. " Amongst 
many others," the directors say, " there was one 
particular error which the old council was guilty of, 
namely, their coming away in the manner they did, 
without ever calling a parliament or a general meet- 
ing of the colony, or consulting their inclinations in 
the least: but commanding them to a blind and 
implicit obedience, which is more than they can ever 
be able to answer for. Wherefore we desire you 
would constitute a parliament, whose advice you are 
to take in important matters; and, in the mean time, 
you are to acquaint the officers and planters with 
the constitutions, and with the few additional ones 
sent by Mr. Mackay ; and that all and every person 
in the colony may know their duty, advantages, 
and privileges; and to the end that God may give 
you a blessing to all your endeavours, we earnestly 
press and recommend it to you, that you study all 
reasonable measures to discountenance and suppress 
all manner of riots and immoralities; but especially 

VOL. I. L 


that you encourage virtue and discourage vice, by 
the example of your own lives; and give all the 
necessary assistance to your ministers, in establishing 
discipline and good order among your people. 9 

Alas, poor fellows, instead of offering an example 
in their own lives on this high scale, they were but 
seeking to preserve their lives; and while their con- 
stituents talked largely of a parliament, they were 
thinking where they would get food. Yet one 
gleam of heroic sunshine flashed over the dreary 
struggle of this third body of emigrants. An ex- 
perienced and daring soldier, Campbell of Einab, 
was sent over as their military leader. He brought 
them in contact with the Spaniards ; and, discouraged 
and broken as they were, they fought with the old 
fierce determination of their race, and were vic- 
torious. Through some almost accidental means, an 
account of this affair reached Scotland separately 
from the disastrous history which followed it; and 
none of the great British victories of the last Euro- 
pean war excited so hearty a fit of national rejoicing 
as this minute skirmish called forth throughout the 
nation. Arnot, the local historian of Edinburgh, 
says that, " Upon the news being received of the 
defeat of the Spaniards, a mob arose, obliged the 
inhabitants to illuminate their windows, committed 
outrages upon the houses of those who did not 


honour them by compliance, secured the avenues to 
the city, and proceeded to the tolbooth, the doors 
of which they burnt, and set at liberty two printers, 
who had been confined for printing pamphlets re- 
flecting on the government"* 

But this gleam of success was brief indeed. A 
Spanish force, so powerful as to render resistance 
preposterous, invested the colony by sea and land, 
and, with resignation to their fete, the haughty Scots 
had to capitulate. 

It was the fate of the company ever to make 
efforts at the wrong time. When the capitulation 
was signed, a reinforcing expedition — the fourth in 
number — was on its way out, full of hope and am- 
bition. One of those who had gone with the first 
expedition accompanied this as supercargo. He 
preserved a diary of the voyage, in which, after 
Borne ordinary perils and uncertainties, we find him 
-thus describing his arrival at his place of destination : 

" We made Golden Island of a truth, and all its 
marks were known plainly to me. We then sent 
away our boat, and I wrote two letters along with 
it; one to the council of the colony, showing them 
where we were, and from whence, and desiring a 
pilot to conduct us in. I wrote another to Captain 
Andrew Stewart, the Earl of Galloway's brother. 
* History of Edinburgh, p. 185. 


By the time we judged our men had got in we 
heard two cannon from the fort. We fired one, and 
they another, as we supposed in return. We then 
no longer doubted but our countrymen were there, 
and so set out our boat to tow us in, for it had been, 
calm some more than an hour before; otherwise I 
am persuaded we had gone in, and the Lord knows 
what might have been the event. * * * But 
before we could come near the black rock, or in 
sight of the garrison, we saw our boat returning, 
yet dreaded nothing of the fatal news they brought 
us. On the contrary, we were big with the fancy 
of seeing our countrymen in general in quiet pos- 
session, of the place, and especially some of us were 
full of the expectation of seeing our dear friends, 
comrades, and acquaintances. In short, there was 
nothing but a general mirth and jollity amongst us. 
But, alas, it was soon damped when our boat came 
aboard, giving us the lamentable and dismal account 
of the Spanish ensigns on our fort, with that nation 
in possession thereof; and that the guns we had 
imagined fired by our countrymen in token of glad* 
ness at our arrival, were, by the Spaniards, shot at 
our boat when she was making her escape from 
them, after having discovered who they were, both 
by their ensigns and speech, having answered them 
in Spanish to what they demanded of them. When 


our men rowed close to their fort, not doubting but 
they were our friends till such time as they came to 
discover so many different sorts of liveries, as red, 
blue, grey, and yellow; — then beginning to doubt, 
considering their ensigns, they lay off upon their 
oars, and our chief mate, James Knight, asked in 
English to whom that place belonged, and all that 
he could understand of their answer was venica 
fruannaj* which signifies, " come here, good man." 
Then our men began to put off, which they no 
sooner see but they begun to fire, which were the 
shots before mentioned." 

The narrator — a certain Captain Patrick Mac- 
dowall — determined to approach with a boat and 
test the accuracy of this information. He saw on 
his approach the Spanish colours pulled down, but 
no response was made to his own flag of truce, nor 
could he extract from them anything to break an 
obdurate and suspicious silence, under which he 
rowed back to his vessel, making the following note 
of what he observed : 

44 While we lay closest to the fort, I made it my 
business to observe the posture of things ashore as 
narrowly as possibly. I observed a great part of the 
rampart intire towards the look-out, and perfectly 
our postern gate. I observed several very good 
houses, and a fort where Mr. Mackay's house stood. 

• Sic in MS. 


I saw some guns on the point battery; but how 
many I could not well distinguish. I observed the 
men in vast numbers and their several liveries 
Where their look-out can be I cannot tell, bat there 
is no watchhouse where ours stood." Such was the 
last glimpse which the adventurers obtained of their 
El Dorado — the mart that was to conjoin the trade 
of the Pacific and Atlantic — the land of delicious 
fruit and turtles— of spices and gorgeous dyes— of 
silver and gold. 

It is now time to turn to the national storm which 
was brewing in Scotland. The feeling of indigna- 
tion against England was almost nationally unani- 
mous. The rich felt it both in their mortified 
pride and their lost fortunes; and the humbler 
classes, down to the lowest street-rabble of Glasgow 
and Edinburgh, joined in the general shout, that 
the nation had been sacrificed to the greed of the 
English traders and the ambition of the revolution 
monarch. Every calamity — whether caused by 
elemental disturbance or the folly and vacillation of 
the inexperienced speculators — swelled the tide of 
wrath; and the Jacobites saw a reactionary force 
gathering against the revolution too naturally strong 
to need their aid. It was better that they should 
merely look on. The records of parliament and 
the privy council show traces of deep perplexity in 
those official persons who had sworn to serve the 


king, yet could not be the true ministers of hia 
wishes without something like national treachery. 
On the 17th of January, 1701, a long series of 
resolutions of the Scottish parliament was embodied 
in an address to the king, in which the proceed- 
ings of the company were pronounced lawful and 
justifiable; the proclamations against them by the 
governors of English colonies were denounced; and 
it was declared that the proceedings of the English 
parliament on the subject were " an undue inter- 
meddling in the afiairs of this kingdom, and an in- 
vasion upon the sovereignty and independence of 
our king and parliament." Some of the more 
violent spirits wished to add a clause, that the 
advisers of the proceedings in the English parlia- 
ment and of the proclamations " have done what 
in them lay to create jealousies and animosities be- 
twixt the two kingdoms — and, if subjects of this 
kingdom, are traitors to the king and country — and, 
when discovered, ought to be prosecute accord- 
ingly;" but this clause was withdrawn. A more 
formidable proposal, that instead of an address to 
the king, which he might answer as he saw fit, its 
terms should be embodied in an act of parliament, 
came to a division, but was lost by 108 to 84. The 
minority became popular heroes; and a caricaturist 
so offensively represented the majority, that a state 


prosecution was attempted; but the jury would not 
convict him. 

In the mean time, the death of the Princess 
Anne's last child suggested that act of security, 
which was afterwards passed to the consternation of 
English statesmen. It settled the succession of the 
crown, on the principle that he who was monarch 
of England should be disqualified by that fact to 
succeed to the crown of Scotland, until the national 
grievances were redressed. After the fashion of the 
English parliament, war was made on pamphleteers 
obnoxious to the prevailing party. A surgeon 
named Walter Harris had favoured the king's 
side of the question in a pamphlet called "A 
Defence of the Scots Abdicating Darien." This 
the parliament directed to be burned by the com- 
mon hangman as " a blasphemous, scandalous, and 
calumnious libel;" and a reward of six thousand 
pounds in Scots money was offered for his apprer 
hension. The Scottish secretary of state had to issue 
a proclamation in the king's name to apprehend 
and prosecute the man who had vindicated the king; 
and the printed placard to that effect may yet be 
seen. In the fierce debates which attended these 
proceedings, the lord commissioner — the representa- 
tive of majesty — was sore perplexed, and literally 
wist not what to do. The minutes of the parlia- 


merit of the 13th of June, for instance, contain an 
adjournment by him thus prefaced : " I am troubled 
with such a cold and hoarseness, that not being able 
to speak much, nor in a condition to stay any time 
here, I shall therefore only tell you that, as I was 
ever firm and faithful to my king, so I was ever 
zealous for the honour and interest of my country; 
and at this time I hoped to have done acceptable 
service to both." 

The Dutch monarch met the storm with his 
usual imperturbable firmness both of nerve and 
temper. But there were feelings and principles 
actuating the Scottish nation which could not but 
meet with respect by one who had fought like him 
against arbitrary power. The historians of the period 
have preserved an anecdote about the many addresses 
from all quarters which were poured in upon the 
monarch. One was to be presented by an enthu-: 
siastic young nobleman, Lord Basil Hamilton. The 
king refused him access.* Lord Basil took an 
opportunity, as the king was leaving the place of 
audience, to stop him and present the address with 
some sharp comments. " That young man is too 
bold," said William; but then his sympathy with a 
gallant spirit triumphing, he continued — " if a man 

• This part of the anecdote is confirmed by a letter of the 
king, recorded in the Minutes of the Scottish Privy Council. 


can be too bold in the cause of his country. " Wit- 
Ham, in fact, showed, even in the reserve of his com- 
munications to the Scottish privy council and par- 
liament, a real sympathy with the nation and its 
calamities. He coupled these expressions with 
some vague desires " to grant what may be needful 
for the relief and care of the kingdom, and the 
advancement and welfare of all its concerns." Doubt- 
less in his busy brain he was endeavouring to re- 
concile justice to the Scots with the necessary de- 
ference to the interested prejudices of the English 
merchants, and the strength of his game in Euro- 
pean politics, when his active life was terminated 
by a fall from a horse, at an age eight years less 
than that reached by a British statesman of late 
times, whose death, occasioned by the same form of 
accident, was lamented as cutting off many years of 
valuable existence. 

With the accession of Queen Anne came a move- 
ment towards a legislative union of the kingdoms. 
This promised a final settlement of all difficulties^ 
but it was in itself so difficult an object to accom- 
plish, that the events which we are going to narrate, 
driving the dispute to a more fierce and critical 
juncture, seem to have been absolutely necessary to 
the result, which has conferred on Britain so great 
and lasting a blessing. In 1703 a Jacobite plot was 


discovered. It raised indignant remarks in. the 
English parliament These in their turn were 
treated by the Scottish parliament as an act of 
national aggression. The Act of Security was 
brought in and passed, and the supplies were sus- 
pended until it should receive the royal assent* 
This assent was refused through the influence of the 
English statesmen on the queen. It was repassed 
by the Scottish parliament, where Fletcher and 
others began to teach the formidable doctrine that 
the royal assent was a mere matter of form not 
necessary to the validity of the acts passed by the 
Scottish parliament. The act at last (1 704) received 
the royal assent, and thus it was decreed that on the 
queen's death the two crowns of Scotland and. 
England should descend to different heirs unless 
such concessions were made as should satisfy the 

In the mean time, the English trading corpora- 
tions, actuated by the spirit of commercial jealousy, 
did some things which justified in its most offensive 
form the complaint of the Scots, that England would 
neither permit them to make separate trading alli- 
ances, nor to participate in hex own colonial com- 

It was among the projects of the Scottish com- 
pany to trade with India, where they encountered 


in rivalship that great corporation [which was des- 
tined to fill so large a place in the world's history. 
India was not yet, however, an English possession, 
nor was it a country at war with England; so that 
there were no diplomatic grounds on which an inde- 
pendent state like Scotland, in alliance with Eng- 
land, could be driven out of that trade. The Darien 
company, however, got a vessel, called the Annan- 
dale, fitted up in England for the India trade, 
employing an English commander and some English 
sailors. It appears to have been their intention to 
proceed straight to India, but seeing that this would 
be a direct infringement of the privileges of the 
East India Company, the vessel was, in the first 
place, cleared for Scotland. The Scottish company 
had the misfortune to quarrel with their commander, 
Ap Rice, who supplied the English company with 
information to suit their purposes. While the vessel 
was in the Downs, she was boarded by custom-house 
officers, aided by the armed crew of a man-of-war. 
The vessel was taken possession of, and the cargo, 
including, according to the statement of the Scots 
company, certain chests of treasure, seized, and put 
under guard. The supercargo said, that when he 
showed the queen's commission as Queen of Scot- 
land, to the tide surveyor in command of the in- 
vaders, " he said that he valued it not a pin, for 


that he had the English East India Company's war- 
rant to indemnify him, and that they had a long 
purse to defend themselves in Westminster Hall." 
The Scottish ministers of course interceded for 
restitution ; but this was only one of many instances 
in that reign, where English law was too strong to 
be modified by any such diplomatic expediency as 
might have suggested the propriety of avoiding, at 
that time, acts calculated to increase the irritation of 
the Scots. After a tedious litigation, in which there 
were nine counsel employed by the English, and 
eight by the Scottish company, the ship Annandak 
and her cargo were forfeited by the Court of Ex- 
chequer, under the statutes in favour of the East 
India Company. 

It so chanced that at this juncture, a vessel called 
the Worcester, attacked by foul weather near the 
east coast of Scotland, ran into the Frith of Forth, 
and cast anchor in the harbour of Burnt Island, 
right opposite to Edinburgh. While mens' minds 
were full of the national insult offered to the coun- 
try in the condemnation of the Annandak, it was 
whispered that the Worcester belonged to that very 
East India Company at whose instance the Scottish 
vessel had been condemned; and, as the rumour 
grew, people exulted in the retributive providence 
that had sent that vessel to the very spot where it 


could be made the instrument of avenging the 
national wrongs of Scotland. It may be mentioned 
that the Worcester does not appear to have belonged 
to the old East India Company, at whose instance the 
Annandale was condemned, but to have been rather 
connected with its new rival, called the Two Mil- 
lion Company; "but the distinction was one easily 
obliterated by those who addressed a people burning 
with patriotic indignation. 

It is angular that an event of so much importance 
in British history as the seizure of this ship— of so 
much importance, once it was the crisis which 
rendered the union necessary— should have been so 
little noticed by historians. It is stated in all the 
histories of the period that the vessel was seized by 
the Scottish government; but it has now to be shown 
how the official staff of the Darien Company per- 
formed that service. In a corner of the oaken press 
containing the books and documents of the company, 
the writer of this account ibund a crumpled, un- 
seated series of letters, seemingly huddled together 
as useless papers. He was tempted to employ some 
leisure hours in unfolding diem, and was pretty well 
rewarded, since, along with many documents of little 
interest, he found among them a series of letters from 
Mr. Roderick Mackenzie, secretary of the company, 
containing an account of the manner in winch he 


Based and kept possession of the ship. This story 
is a little Tomance in itself, the more active portion 
of which, at least, had better be told in his own 
"words. Among these documents there is a warrant 
by the court of directors, authorising Mackenzie to 
take measures for seizing the vessel by force of arms 
if seed be, " in name, and for the use of, the said 
Scots company; not only for having, contrary to 
the rights and privileges of the said Scots company, 
without their license and authority, imported and 
clandestinely sold East India goods into this king- 
dom, but likewise upon account of reprisal, as be- 
longing to the English East India Company." 

In a long letter addressed to the directors, Mr. 
Mackenzie gives an account of the manner in which 
he fulfilled his commission. It is dated 2nd Sep 
tember, 1704, but the seizure took place on the 12th 
of August. The first part of the letter contains many 
reflections, and some observations on the nature of 
the duty he had undertaken. All these we may 
pass over, and come at once to the scene of action: 

"The chief and almost only difficulty that re- 
mained with me was how, with secrecy and despatch, 
to get together a sufficient number of such genteel 
pretty fellows as would, of their own free accord, on 
a sudden advertisement, be willing to accompany me 
upon this adventure, and whose dress and behaviour 


would not render them suspected of any uncommon 
design in going aboard; nor had I a power to com- 
pel any man. 

" For this end, the day happening luckily enough 
to be Saturday (the general holy-day or rather play- 
day in this place), I stept immediately towards the 
City Cross, with the most unconcerned air thatlcould 
put on, and ask't such of my acquaintance as I met, 
and thought fitt for my purpose, whether they would 
not go and take a Saturday's dinner somewhere in 
the countrey, with me and and a friend or two of 
mine ? I made use of the same general topick to all 
of them, for distinguishing such as were not then 
engaged about any particular business; and to these 
only I addressed myself further, with more or less 
freedom, according as I found their several pulses 

" I shall not trouble you with a recital of all the 
diverting humours that I observed in ingaging such 
as I thought fitt persons to bear a part in our little 
adventure; but, in short (without naming of names), 
some persons to whom I had cautiously enough 
drop't my mind, and who had condescended to go 
along, gave me the slip at Edinburgh, and others 
did the like after they had gone as far as Leith and 
Newhaven. Yet, after all, there remained with me 
still eleven persons, who, tho' most of them be as 


good gentlemen and (I must own) much prettier 
fellows than I pretend to be, yet, through mere com* 
meradship to myself, and love to the design they saw 
me ingaged in, they not only frankly and freely con- 
descended to bear a share in my fate that day, but 
likewise, seeing I was the only person directly com- 
missioned by our company, they generously subj ected 
themselves to my conduct and directions, as im- 
plicitly as if they had belonged to some disciplined 
troop under my command; for which cause, and for 
their subsequent behaviour, I question not but that 
my constituents will, in due time, enable and impower 
me, in their names, to make these gentlemen some ac- 
knowledgment suitable to the merit of their services. 
" My eleven companions and I, having soon con- 
certed measures, and being all of us armed with 
swords, pocket pistols, and some with bayonets too, 
three of them and myself and servant only, went first 
of all aboard, with the very first of the evening tide, 
in a boat from Leith, taking along with us some wine, 
brandy, sugar, lime-juice, &c, to pave the way for 
those that should come after us; four more followed 
some time thereafter, in a boat from Newhaven ; and 
while I was tongue-pading and entertaining the ship-* 
officers with a hearty bowle in the cabin, my friends 
got aboard unsuspected; the third boat, with the last 
four of our friends, made a faint towards the man- 

VOL. I. M 


of- war that lay then in the rdad t and calling for the 
captain (whom they knew to have been ftshoar)j 
made some pretence to go aboard out of curiosity, to 
view the ship j and) in a short time thereafter* eame 
from the man-of-war towards the East India ship* 
By this tiznfe we were all vtery busy aboard) sonid 
drinking and others merchandising, till these who 
were in the third boat got likewise easily aboard un» 
suspected. We seemed to be Very little Acquainted 
with them, till that the boatswain* happening to 
complain that they had but little room and small 
conveniency aboard for entertaining persons of 
quality, and that several gentlemen were drinking 
between decks, I took occasion to say that Z believed 
we had taken up tod muoh of their room, and de- 
sired him, therefore) cause make ready our boat) 
that we might give way to others by turns; which 
the boatswain and other officers Would not hear of, 
but said I was heartily Welcome to stay as long as I 
pleased j I told them, since the incommoding of their 
friends was occasioned by our possessing the cabin, 
the least reparation we ought to make Was to invite 
them and their friends to partake of our bowle, 
especially seing we had more liquor than we could 
well drink during the short time that we were to 
stay on board; whereupon, with abundance of 
thanks, ceremony, and complement) they introduced 


into oar company our own friends under the notion 
of thein. 

u We projected likewise to ourselves, for the 
greater security, to have got one of the best ferry* 
boats of Burntisland well manned, with design to 
have her lying off at some distance, till we had 
given some signal from the ship to clap us imme- 
diately aboard; and we who had got first aboard, 
should in the mean time give such diversion, one way 
or other, to the ship's crew, as might disable them 
from firing any great gunns at the boat But the 
shortness of time to which I found myself limited, 
could not possibly admitt of any such formal pre- 
paration, so that we who were got aboard, being 
fairly without suspicion, joined together in manner 
foresaid; what then remained only to be thought of 
was to put our design in execution the best way we 
could, since we were to expect no other help. 

" I saw that (small and great) there were about 
double our number on board, so that before we 
could attempt anything, it was absolutely necessary 
to decoy all the officers into the cabin, thereby to 
render the common sailers headless without com- 
mand, which at last we got done by lulling all the 
crew into a full security, with drinking, singing, &c. 

* At my first coming on board, I took (as it were) 
out of cariosity a survey of the ship's condition, 


and would needs see what conveniences they had 
got between decks, in the gun-room and forecastle, 
&c. Some of my companions were now and then 
for an amusement stepping out upon deck, and we 
agreed upon a watchword, when we should plant 
ourselves thus: two to guard the gun-room door, 
two on the main-deck, by the forecastle, two on 
the quarter-deck, and the other five with myself in 
the cabin. And really were you to be entertained 
with all the several humours and little pleasant in* 
terludes that happened before, at, and after the 
time of our going on board, till the end of the show 
(besides their mistaking me, forsooth, for some 
lord, and their treating me as such, and my taking 
upon me accordingly), I am persuaded you'd think 
the whole a most compleat scene of a comedy, acted 
to the life; and to conclude the story, I may say, 
the ship was at last taken with a Scot's song. 

u It's true the carpenter and some others of the 
crew attempted to give us a pretty rugged chorus, 
by laying hands on some brass blunderbushes that 
hung ready charged in the cabin, but they were 
quickly made to lose their holds, and about nine 
a clock at night we became absolute masters of 
both ship and crew, without any bloodshed on either 
side. We immediately turned most of all the ordinary 
sailors ashoar, and after securing all the small arms, 


I sealed the hatches, gun-room, lazaretta, chests, 
cabinets and other keepings, with our company's seal, 
in presence of two of the queen's waiters, the boat- 
swain, gunner, carpenter, Stewart, gunner's mate, 
and others of the crew:, whom I keep still on board 
as witnesses to all that has been, or shall be acted, 
till the event of the cause in debate. 

" After having sealed and secured the hatches, and 
other keeping, as aforesaid, I despatched an express 
to our court of directors to give them an account of 
our success, which you may easily believe was very 
agreeable news to all of them. 

" I sent likewise by the same occasion a line to a 
skipper of my acquaintance in Leith to come aboard 
the next day, and bring twenty or thirty able trusty 
sailers along with him, which he did accordingly on 
Sunday, towards the evening, and upon -Monday 
we weighed anchors, but wanting wind to fill our 
sails, we towed the ship with oared boats into Brun- 
tisland harbour, where she lies now, without sail or 
rudder, as secure as a thief in a mill. 

" We have likewise landed eight of the ship's guns, 
and planted them upon a fort that commands the 
entry into the harbour, hired a gunner, and a com- 
petent number of stout pretty fellows to keep guard 
there both night and day to prevent our being sur- 
prized by any that may have a counter design upon 


us till we get the ship condemned and unloaded by a 
judicial sentence; an account of all which proceed- 
ings being reported at large to our court of directors, 
on the twenty-fourth, and to the council general of 
our company on the twenty-sixth of the last month 
(where a considerable number of our ohief nobility, 
barons, burgesses, and members of parliament were 
present), they all, to my great satisfaction, approved 
the same, nemine contradicente, and a process is now 
commenced in my name, as our company's factor, 
for obtaining a decreet of reprizal before the high 
court of admirality for condemning the ship Wor- 
cester and her cargo, to make good the dammages 
sustained by our company upon account of the ship 

" Our lybel is founded likewise on two separate 
grounds,* vist., their importing and vending East 
India goods here, without any licence or permission 
from our company, and their having on board the 
tipe, or counterfeit of our company's seal. 

" I have been some days ago over at Bruntisland 
searohing the captain's cabinet, chest, and writing- 
desk, by the judge admiral's warrant, with a macer 
of court, and two publick notaries in company, 
besides the magistrate of the place, and several other 
witnesses then present; and by the transient view 
wjiich I have already had of the captain's books 


And papers, and by some very odd expressions dropt 
now and then from some of the ship's crew, I have 
reason to suspect him as guilty of some very un- 
warrantable practices. 

" It is now so late that I cannot enlarge on the 
particular remarks that I have made on some pas- 
sages of the papers; but with my first oonvenienoy 
I shall inform you from time to time of all the 
material occurrences relating to any part of this 
whole aflkir; and the return which I expect from 
you, is a frequent account of what you hear the 
English East India Company, and the immediate 
owners and freighters of this ship, are doing, or shall 
do upon this occasion.' 1 

Thus was carried out a scheme of great audacity 
—one such as probably never man proceeded on 
from the three-legged stool of a joint-stock company's 
office. The risk run by Mackenzie and those who 
aided him was imminent, not only in the unequal 
contest of his small civic force with a vastly pre- 
ponderant body of hardy seamen, but in the certain 
wrath of the English government, and the question- 
able support of his own. And though the whole 
narrative has an air of gross treachery, yet, if it be 
looked upon not as a private transaction, but a na- 
tional operation, it will bear comparison with the 
old-established British system of a seizure of foreign 


vessels as the first announcement of war. The letters 
sent day by day from Mackenzie to his consti- 
tuents, show his sense of responsibility and his keen 
anxiety; but they deal too much with small details 
to admit of being here quoted at length. His new 
duties, as commander of a captured vessel, naturally 
taxed the capacity of the joint-stock secretary ; and his 
earliest desire, " Pray order some of your servants to 
acquaint my wife where I am," naturally recals to us 
the astonishment of the secretary's wife, on finding 
that the husband for whom she had been waiting 
dinner had become a naval commander. " The ship, 
I believe," he says to his constituents, " is the foul- 
lest in the narrow seas. There is a discreet man — 
one Skipper Hodge, a pilot, from Frasersburgh, on 
board. I have his advice quietly; and by both his 
and Skipper Mills' joint advice, we design (God 
willing), to-morrow early, to endeavour to get her 
into Bruntisland harbour, which they seem doubtful 
of performing if it be not fair weather, because she 
will not answer her rudder, her rudder being pro- 
digiously overgrown with oysters, muscles, &c." 
Having got over his many difficulties, he next says: 
" This is to inform your honors further, that (thanks 
be to God) I am here now well arrived, with my 
masters' prize, in better condition and much sooner 
than was expected by any on board except myself. 


We are got safe within the heads, but can get no 
further up the harbour (it being exactly nip-tide) 
till to-morrow or next day. I design to cause carry 
here sails ashoar to-morrow morning, for the greater 
security. I know there are little plots hatching 
against me as to my present charge, but I hope I 
shall be aware of them. The truth is, I cannot say 
I have sleept (yea, scarcely slumbered) two hours 
since Friday night; nor can I allow myself much 
ease that way till my masters' prize be as much out 
of harm's way as I can reasonably project. 

"Here I am stopt by the arrival of Newton 
Drummond's son, with your honors' acceptable 
line, the contents of which I hope I have, in a great 
measure, already executed. While I have so weighty 
a charge in my hands, nothing shall be more ac- 
ceptable to me than the frequency of orders and 
letters from, at least, some of your number, for my 
government and direction in the discharge of my 

" I have made use of many hands, which I pro- 
cured with no small industry and difficulty; having 
scarce any one hand one whole day on board, but 
am forced to shift and change the best way I can, 
most of them at least pretending to be concerned 
in several ships that are going under Capt. Gordon's 
convoy, or bound by charte* party on coasting voy- 


Proceedings were immediately commenced in the 
High Court of Admiralty, for condemning the vessel 
as lawful prize by reprisal. The lord chancellor 
brought the matter under the notice of the Scottish 
privy council ; and there is a minute of that body, 
of 5th September, finding that the ship, M not being 
■eieed by any warrant or authority from the govern- 
ment," but by the company, 4< in prosecution of 
their own proper rights, and of the acts of parlia- 
ment made and conceived in their favour," it was 
not for the council to Interfere with the question, as 
it lay with the Oourt of Admiralty.* 

But in the mean time the position of the eaptive 
vessel and her crew began to assume a more dark 
and mysterious aspect. One of the vessels belonging 
to the Darien Company, called the Speedy Return, 
having one of their most conspicuous officers, Cap- 
tain Drummond, as supercargo, had been missing 
for three years, and indistinct rumours had reached 
Scotland of the ship having been taken and the 
crew murdered by pirates. The crew of the 
Worcester were men of a suspicuous aspect — *• pro- 
fligate in their lives and conversation — who occa- 
sionally, as Mr. Mackenzie's narrative has shown, 

♦ Minutes of the Scottish privy council, in the General 
Hegister House; from which the references to the privy 
council in these pages are taken, where no intermediate source 
is notified. 


dropped ominous expressions about some deed of 
darkness. What if an inscrutable Providence 
had in the strange turn of events delivered the 
robbers and murderers of their fellow-country- 
men into the hands of the avengers? How these 
surmises began to assume a tangible shape in sus- 
picious eyes, may best be told in some extracts from 
a few loose papers, seeming to have been intended 
by Mackenzie as the materials for a minute or 
journal of his daily proceedings. He records the 
capture of the vessel on Saturday, the 12th of 
August; and his attention is first arrested by the 
gunner, who expressed a fear that the capture was 
only the prelude to some design upon their lives: 

u On Monday thereafter, in the forenoon, about 
eleven a cloak, the carpenter, Hendry Keigle, and 
Andrew Robertson, the gunner's mate, happening 
to discourse about their wages, Hendry Keigle was 
very anxious to go ashoar; the other said he would 
take his hazard; and sticking by the ship till he'd 
see whether he might expect his wages or not, 
whereupon Keigle said to him in passion, • Damn ye 
— you never wrought so as to deserve wages out of 
anything that's aboard of this ship.' The other 
being calmer in his temper, answered, ' I wrought the 
work that I was hyred for.' Upon which the other 
flew out in a most extravagant passion, and abused 


Robertson with his tongue to the last degree. 
Robertson made no return; but after some tymes 
pausing and walking up and down upon the main 
deck, crossing his arms, and putting his hands under 
his armpitts, and hanging down his head, without 
addressing his discourse to any one in particular, 
spoke, as near as I can remember, the very words 
following (after a sigh or two): ' This is the just 
judgment of God upon us all for the wickedness 
that has been committed in our last voage; and I'm 
afraid it will still pursue us yet further, when that 
now we are reduced to so small a number aboard, 
and four or five of us cannot agree amongst our- 

" In a night or two thereafter, when the ship was 
gott within the heads of Bruntisland harbour, and 
that they were all drinking a hearty bowl of punch 
in the main cabin, Mr. Mackenzie happened to dis- 
course about Captain Gordon's being a scourge to 
the small French privateers upon our coast, George 
Hains, being pretty mellow with the punch, opened 
up his breast, and to the hearing of the boatswain, 
gunner, carpenter, and gunner's mate, who were then 
all in the cabin (as well as several Scots gentlemen), 
said, flauntingly, thus: 4 Lord God, our sloop, was 
more terrible upon the coast of Malabar than ever 
Captain Gordon was, or will be, to the French priva- 


teers on the coast of Scotland ; for a better sailer than 
that sloop never caried canvas ;' or words to that effect. 

"Mr. Mackenzie finding Hains in that mood, 
and walking upon the quarter-deck, being a fine 
moonshine night, asked him whither in their voage 
outward or inward, they had mett with, or heard 
anything of, or concerning two Scots ships that 
went on a trading voage beyond the Cape? Hains 
asked what should they be? Mr. Mackenzie told 
him they were two small ships belonging to the 
Scots company; the one commanded by Captain 
Drummond, and the other by Captain Steuart. 
Hains said, ( Yes — we heard of them, but did no see 
'em.' Mr. Mackenzie then asked what he had heard 
of 'em? Hains answered, ' It's no great matter — you 
need not trouble your head about 'em, for I believe 
you won't see 'em in haste.' Why so, George? said 
Mr. Mackenzie. Hains shifted answering for some 
tyme, but Mackenzie, repeating the same question 
again more earnestly, Hains said he had heard they 
had turned pirrats, which was all the satisfaction he 
could gett at that tyme, save only, that Hains said 
he had heard one of 'em had eight guns, and the 
other twelve or fourteen, if he remembred right. 

" Sometyme thereafter, George Hains falling into 
acquaintance with Ann Seatoun, to whom he pro- 
fessed a might deal of love, and being willing to 


ingratiat himself into her favour at any rate- 
especially when he was overtaken with drink— told 
her the secrets of his heart to a far greater degree 
than Mr. Mackenzie* or any other of his company 
oould pump out of him; and it was about that 
tyme that Mrs. Wilkie and her sone went to Bruntis* 
land, to enquire news about her other son, Andrew 
Wilkie, who went away surgeon to Captain Drum- 
mond's ship. George Hains— -his familiar discourse 
with Ann Seatoun— happening to take vent so as 
to come to the ears of Simpson Keigle and Robert- 
son, who were then aboard, they threatened George 
Hains in such manner, both that night and nixt 
morning, that he could not be at peace till he gott 
ashoar again to confer with his mistress. And then it 
seems he prevailed with her, not only not to dis- 
cover all that he had formerly told her, but lykways 
to deny all that she had told to Captain Red, Cap- 
tain Monro, John Turrin, Kenneth Mackenzie, and 
others ; and lykways what she had further promised 
to them to have discovered to Mr. Mackenzie, when 
he should come over the water, he being then at 
Edinburgh; and so it was, that ever thereafter, 
both George Hains and Ann Seatoun were as shy 
in owning anything of the premises, either to Mr. 
Mackenzie or any of the aforesaid gentlemen, as if 
no such thing had been ever said, — until that long ' 


thereafter* she gave Some declaration thereof to the 
committee of privy council." 

The inquiry appeared to ripen by degrees, and 
in the middle of the month of December, Sir Francis 
Scott, the chairman of the company, writes to the 
secretary, laying that the ' murder of the Drum* 
monds it publicly talked of in the Streets, and that 
u my lord chancellor called me this afternoon and 
laid now that the matter was in everybody's talk, 
he was under some obligation to call the council 
and acquaint them of the business." The books of 
the privy council now show a series of minutes 
devoted to this subject from the 2nd January on- 
wards. They appointed a committee of their num- 
ber to inspect the vessel* These statesmen con- 
sidered it their duty to examine everything and 
report specifically, as if they had been officers of 
justice searching the chamber in which a murder 
. had been committed. They caused the whole cargo 
to be unshipped and unpacked, and seem to have 
found their real task one of considerable difficulty* 
Their reports have all the particularity of invoices 
attenuated by law and state-paper technicalities, 
and one peruses their dreary details only to carry a 
confused recollection of casks of pepper and man- 
goes, bales of reeds and dye-stufls, and such like 


ordinary tropical produce. Meantime the usual 
judicial examinations of the crew and of those who 
could afford evidence took place, and the privy 
council issued instructions to the law officers of the 
crown to institute proceedings against Green and 
his crew for the crimes of piracy and murder. 

On the 5th of March, 1705, the Court of Admi- 
ralty sat to adjudicate on the indictment. It was 
directed against Green himself, Madder, the chief 
mate, Reynolds, the second mate, and fifteen others. 
An indictment at that time began with a general 
description of the crime with which the accused 
was charged. It then set forth in detail, according 
to the evidence which the crown expected to adduce, 
the particular train of circumstances whence it was 
inferred that such a crime had been so committed. 
The court decided, often after lengthy pleadings, 
on the " relevancy" of these specific statements to 
support the general conclusion; that is to say, de- 
cided whether or not, if they were proved, they would 
justify the general inference, thus performing a large 
portion of the functions now left to the jury. To the 
unprofessional reader such a document has the advan- 
tage that it furnishes him with a connected abridg- 
ment of the evidence, but it makes the trial tedious 
on the whole, as before the evidence is actually taken 


there is generally, as we find in the record in this 
case, a mass of uninteresting written pleadings on 
the relevancy of the particulars.* 

It is now a well-established rule through all 
civilised jurisprudence, that the first step in criminal 
procedure is to ascertain that a crime has been 
committed, and then to find who committed it. 
This is what lawyers call establishing the corpus 
delicti. The opposite and dangerous rule is to ac- 
cuse a person of a crime, and then discover what 
crime he has committed. This was unfortunately 
the ruling principle of the trial of Green. It never 
was clearly established that an act of piracy had been 
committed as a distinct fact, but by putting certain 
circumstances together it was inferred that Green 
was guilty of piracy. The very shape in which 
the accusation is set forth, shows that the accusers 
could not point to the specific act of piracy 
which had been committed. It is thus: " The fore- 
said captain, and his said crew, belonging to the 
said vessel, did, upon one or other of the days of the 
month of February, March, April, or May, in the 
year 1703, encounter or meet with another ship or 
vessel manned by its own crew upon the coast 

* See the Trial of Captain Thomas Green and his Crew, in 
the State Trials, xiv., 1199. 

VOL. I. N 


of Malabar, near Calecute; and the said vessel bear- 
ing a red flag, and having English or Scotch aboard, 
at least such as spoke the English language; the 
said Captain Thomas Green and his crew, after some 
interoommuning with them, did, without any lawful 
warrant or just cause, attack the said other vessel 
or ship while expecting no such treatment ; and 
invading her first by their sloop which they had 
manned with guns and other arms for that purpose, 
they fell upon the said other vessel in an hostile 
manner, by shooting of guns and otherwise, and 
after some time fighting against her they overcame 
and boarded the said other vessel, and having seized 
their men they killed them and threw them over- 
board, and then carried or caused to carry away the 
goods that were aboard the said other vessel to their 
said ship the Worcester, and then disposed upon the 
said ship by selling her ashore on the said coast." 
Here was no specification as to the vessel taken, 
which might enable the accused to prove that it had 
not been taken; no names of parties murdered, who 
might be shown still to be alive; no ownership of 
cargo, which might admit of proof that the owner's 
goods had arrived safe. As Green himself is made 
justly to say in the document published as his dying 
speech, " We are condemned as pirates and mui> 


derers on a coast far distant from this place — is there 
any of you who wants either a friend whom we 
have murdered, or whose goods we have taken?" 

It did not make this vagueness more justifiable, 
that, though not stated, a specific crime was indis- 
tinctly hinted at, and in a manner calculated to 
rouse effectively the prejudices of the jury. One of 
the articles of evidence set forth in the indictment 
was, that one of the sailors, speaking of a person who 
had sailed with Captain Drummond, said that he 
would never more be seen. If there was anything 
to be inferred from this, it was, that Captain Drum- 
mond's ship was the object of the piracy. The other 
articles of evidence were chiefly those dubious ex- 
pressions which Mr. Mackenzie had drunk in with 
greedy awe, along with a more distinct exclamation 
made by Hainefr the steward, " That it is a wonder 
that since we did not sink at sea, God hath not 
made the ground to swallow us up for the wicked- 
ness that has been committed during the last voyage, 
on board that old Bitch Bess," pointing to Captain 
Green's ship. It was maintained that the goods in 
the vessel were not stowed in mercantile fashion, 
but were in confusion and uncovered, as if they had 
been violently anfl hastily brought on board. 

Such were the presumptions, which had to be 
construed with the direct testimony to be shortly 


noticed, so that, as the indictment expresses it, " they 
being joined and connected together (as a discovery 
of such wickedness practised in such remote parts, 
and so industriously and obstinately endeavoured 
to be concealed deserves to be), the same in all the 
points and circumstances thereof — at least, such and 
so many of them as are relevant, and are offered to 
be proven by a cumulative probation — do plainly 
amount to such a plenary evidence as may fully 
convince all impartial men that the aforesaid Cap- 
tain Green and his said crew, are all and each of 
them guilty, art and part of the foresaid crimes of 
piracy, robbery, and murder." 

We need not cite the tedious written pleadings, 
which, with their metaphysical niceties, and abun- 
dant quotations from the Corpus Juris, and such 
commentators as Mathaeus, Giurba, Mascardus, 
and Carpzovius, would startle the practical and 
technical mind of the Central Criminal Court. We 
'turn to the modicum of direct evidence, which the 
indictment promises to conjoin with those elements 
of suspicion, which, of course, standing alone, could 
never have been offered to a jury as ostensible 
grounds for a conviction. One witness only, An- 
tonio Ferdinando, the cook's mate, a negro, could 
speak to an actual battle. He was not very distinct 
as to date or other accompaniments, but he said the 


Worcester had a sloop with her, and that he saw 
Green and the others man the sloop and attack 
another vessel with an English crew. He described 
the conflict in a rather confused manner, as lasting 
for three days, " and upon the third day, the said 
ship was boarded by those in the sloop, who, when 
they came aboard, did take up those of the crew of 
the said ship from under deck, killed them with 
hatchets, and threw them overboard." The prize 
he described as being afterwards sold on the Malabar 
coast, where the capture took place, to a certain Coge 
Commodo, a Portuguese receiver of pirated vessels. 
Another negro, called Antonio Francisco, was held 
to confirm this testimony by his statement, that, when 
chained to the forecastle, he heard firing and saw 
goods brought on board. The surgeon's testimony 
was held to be an important corroboration of that of 
the negroes. He was on shore for some weeks, when 
he heard firing at sea in the direction of the Worces- 
ter ■, and was told by Coge Commodo and another, 
" that the Worcester had gone out and was fighting 
at sea with another ship." Next day he went down 
to the beach, and saw the Worcester riding with 
another vessel at her stern. He found the boat 
coming on shore for water, " because they had 
spilt and staved all their water aboard; and that 
there had been busking all night, which the witness 


understood meant that they had been at sore labour 
and fatigue, as if their ship had been driven from 
her anchor and bearing up again." On going on 
board he saw the deck strewed and lumbered with 
goods; and expressing his surprise as one who would 
fain know the reason of this, Madder the mate said 
fiercely, " Damn you, what have you to do to in- 
quire — meddle with your plaister-box." Still more 
material — the surgeon had to heal some wounds, 
apparently gun-shot, and a jealous reserve was kept 
when lie made any inquiry as to the cause of them. 
Along with the oral, there was some documentary 
evidence. The most important was an instruction 
to correspond in cypher. A fictitious alphabet is 
supplied to the captain, with this warning: "For 
the greater security of our affairs, when you write 
by the alphabet in your instructions, I would 
have you carry the last letter of each word to be in 
the room of the first letter of the next word; as, 
for example, ' Captain Thomas Bowrey Sir we are 
all well,' Captai nthoma sbowre ysi no ear eal Iwett" 
"Fair trading," said Sir David Dalrymple, the 
counsel for the prosecution, " requires no such affec- 
tation." This gentleman's address was able and 
ingenious, not without some appeals to the prevail* 
ing popular frenzy, as thus: 
" The crime of piracy is complex, and is made 


up of oppression, robbery, and murder, committed in* 
places far remote and solitary. And, indeed, if God 
had not, in a most wonderful way, brought the 
crimes whereof the panels stand accused, to light, 
they might have escaped unpunished in this world 
to their own eternal destruction, and to the great 
loss of such who may be amended or prevented by 
the example of their punishment. But, although 
the abuses now complained of happened in the vast 
ocean, and at no less distance than the East Indies, 
and' that the actors were tied by obvious reason to 
secrecy on their own account, and were bound by a 
religious command not to reveal or answer questions 
—and, besides all these, it is most probable there 
was a most impious oath interposed, as used to be 
in such cases, and which has more force to restrain 
men of such desperate principles and practices than 
all the ties of religion or nature," &c. 

This last allusion can only be understood by one 
who is acquainted through the perusal of private 
letters with the rumours of the day. One of 
these bore that the whole pirate crew having been 
bled, a portion of the blood of each was dropped 
into one vessel, where it was mixed with wine, and 
then each, taking a piece of bread, dipped it in the 
horrid mixture, and, by this profane sacrament, 
swore to keep their common crimes a secret. 


The verdict of the jury was returned on the 14th 
of March, in these terms: "They, by plurality of 
votes, find that there is one clear witness as to the 
piracy, robbery, and murder, libelled; and that 
there are accumulative and concurring presumptions 
proven for the piracy and robbery so libelled." 
And the court interpreting this as a conviction, 
sentenced the accused to be hanged in three several 
instalments within flood-mark, on the sands of 

No one accustomed to observe the administration 
of justice in this country, will now say that the 
evidence justified a conviction, though it leaves on 
the reader an impression, sufficiently distinct for the 
historical conclusion, that the crew of the Worcester 
had been guilty of some acts of violence, of the kind 
then so common in the high seas. But in reality the 
verdict was found by men who were fighting for na- 
tional independence, and avenging national wrongs, 
rather than deliberately weighing evidence. It 
may be hoped that, never in the breast of any one 
of the majority who convicted these men, did the 
intention exist of sacrificing innocent men even to 
the genius of national independence; and the true 
interpretation of their conduct may be found in the 
strong prepossessions that unfitted them, and per- 
haps would, at such a time, have unfitted almost 


every Scotsman, for the deliberative functions of the 

Soon after the trial, admissions were made by 
some of the condemned prisoners, which only 
deepened die difficulty, by feeding the passions of 
. the national party without convincing the unpre- 
judiced. On the 27th of March, after another of 
the crew had made an indistinct admission, Haines 
the steward emitted a confession which was for- 
mally attested by the judge of the admiralty court. 
It admitted the crime of piracy, in terms pretty 
nearly the same as those in which it had been set 
forth in the indictment, Haines representing himself 
as having been an unwilling and merely passive 
accessary. In this confession, he professed his igno- 
rance of the particular ship on which the piracy 
had been committed, and of the fate of the crew; 
but three days afterwards he made a supplementary 
confession or declaration, " that after the ship therein 
mentioned was seized, he saw the men which were 
therein killed and murdered with pole-axes and 
cutlasses, and saw their dead bodies put into the 
sloop, and thereafter thrown overboard. And to 
the best of the declarant's knowledge, the said men 
so killed were Scotsmen, the declarant having 
heard them speak in the Scots' language. And 
further declares, that the said ship then seized was 


in this matter must be the gift of God, for I doubt 
much that it's in the power of man to convince this 
nation of it. I was surprised to find people affirm 
that the evidence was suborned, and that those who 
confess do it in the dread of torture or upon pro- 
mise of life. The Whigs* make a national Jacobitish 
business of it, and it will be trumped up at all the 


A rumour may be traced in the correspondence 
of the period, that the English government would 
blockade the Scottish coast to cut off communica- 
tion with France, should it be necessary to use 
coercive measures towards Scotland. In the minutes 
of the privy council there is evidence of the effect 
of this rumour on both sides. On the 12th of 
March there is an investigation on the " insolence" 
of Captain Howe, commander of an English man- 
of-war, who had dared to search vessels in the 
Scottish waters. He was required to appear before 
the council and answer for his conduct, but he 
haughtily refused. A subsequent minute, however, 
bears testimony fc> his " being since better informed, 
and come to a just sense of his mistake;" when he 
promises caution for the future, and throws the 

* Expressed in cypher by the figure 6. 
t Jerriswood Correspondence, printed for the Bannatyne 
Club, p. 70. 


blame, according to established practice, on an in- 
ferior officer, who had exceeded his instructions. 
The submission of this officer was an indication 
that the English, government deemed it wiser to 
soothe than to threaten. The faintest affront to 
Scotland would have produced immediate war, with 
such miserable consequences in the indefinite hosti- 
lity of two nations. on the eve of a cordial union, as 
must have alarmed conscientious statesmen. 

Still it was believed that Scotland was about to 
put English citizens to death, and it was seen with 
indignation that the English government did no- 
thing. It was supposed that her majesty would at the 
last extend to the convicts the beneficent preroga- 
tive of pardon; but she required to exercise it 
through the Scottish privy council, and it was 
questioned whether they would sanction it, or dared 
to do so were they inclined. It is worthy of notice 
that the affidavits which we have mentioned tending 
to the exculpation of the accused wore sent officially 
by her majesty to the privy council. One of their 
body mentions that the council refused at first to 
receive them, as they were not technically authen- 
ticated; and then, when the originals came, treated 
them as irrelevant.* On the 25th of March a letter 
was read from the Duke of Argyle, intimating the 
* Jerriswood Correspondence, p. 75. 


queen's desire that the execution should be sus- 
pended till her majesty's pleasure was known; but 
the council declined to act on it, holding it not to 
be in the proper form for the exercise of the royal 
prerogative. In their answer, the council state that 
they are "most tender of your majesty's prero- 
gative in matters of this nature." They state that 
everything had proceeded according to law and 
form. They mention the confessions, which they 
say leave no place for doubt that "the said piracy, 
robbery, and murder, was committed upon Captain 
Drummond, and his ship sent out by the African 
company of this kingdom." They beg that her 
majesty may be induced to take no steps in the mat- 
ter, save as she may be advised by her faithful 
council in Scotland; and state that they feared 
the step she had already taken had prevented the 
other convicts from confessing. They state that 
they have granted no reprieve except to those 
who had confessed, and assure her majesty " that 
this aflair appears to us to be of the highest con- 
sequence for your majesty's interest and service, 
and the necessary satisfaction of all your people."* 
Receiving on the day before that fixed for the 
execution a peremptory command from her majesty 

* Minutes of Privy Council (28th March), General Register 


to grant a reprieve until further inquiry, they com- 
plied, by changing the day of execution from the 
4th to the 11th of April. The council address her 
majesty at length; they "entreat and obtest" that 
she will grant no further reprieves or remissions; 
giving her an account of the confession of Bruck- 
ley, and saying " it is the great concern of your 
majesty's service, and the earnest expectation of all 
your people, not otherwise to be satisfied, that the 
public justice of the nation be allowed to proceed 
without any further stop." 

On the day before the expiry of the reprieve — 
the 10th of April — the matter again came before 
the council, as it was necessary to decide whether 
the law should have its courae, or the queen's wishes 
should be carried out by a further postponement of 
the execution, until the inquiry contemplated by 
her advisers had been completed. It was a nervous 
deliberation. The excitement of the people was 
deep and fierce, and — an ominous phenomenon, 
always indicative in Scotland of the nation being 
stirred from its heart,— people flocked to Edinburgh 
from distant parts of the country, as they did thirty 
years afterwards to the execution of Porteous. The 
council, even as its proceedings appear, on its own 
minutes, showed itself incompetent to deal with 
such a crisis. The queen and England were on one 


side, and the mob on the other, and it would take 
no courageous stand. Three voted for a further 
reprieve — three voted against it. The others who 
were present would not vote. In this inequality it 
lay with the chancellor to decide the question by 
his casting vote. He declined exercising this 
offensive privilege; since there were others present 
who might give the votes which rendered it un- 
necessary, but would not. He said he was in favour 
of the reprieve, and was prepared to sign it, if those 
who had not voted would join him; but they would 
not. Thus nothing was resolved on; but the mere 
neutrality was fatal, for the previous decision of 
the council, which appointed the convicts to be exe- 
cuted next day, remained unaltered. 

On the I lth, the great central thoroughfare of 
Edinburgh — the High-street — was filled with a 
menacing mob— national, rather than local It was 
clear to every one who walked abroad that day that 
there would be violence and slaughter ere night ; 
how much, or in what quarter, were the chief 
questions. The privy council assembled in their 
chambers beneath the Parliament House, and the 
mob swarmed in the space in front and upwards to 
the ditch of the castle, in which, for better security, 
the prisoners were kept. It was known that " a 
flying post" — one of those who had so frequently 


arrived of late — had come from the court in London, 
and the mob were excited to the point of outbreak 
by the belief that it brought a pardon or reprieve to 
the prisoners. The communication from her majesty 
alluded calmly and almost sadly to the reasons which 
had been given for a belief that Drummond and his 
crew were still alive. It contained some further 
documents supposed to bear on the point — affidavits 
as to vessels which had brought the latest news from 
India, yet did not mention any piracy correspond- 
ing to that of which Green had been found guilty, — 
and the like. The contents of the despatch showed 
how anxious the queen's advisers in England were 
to avert the catastrophe, were it possible. In the 
end, however, she left the question in the hands of 
the council, recommending it to their "calmness 
and consideration." It was decided that Green him- 
self, Madder the mate, and Simpson the gunner, 
should be executed; the others were reprieved, and, 
subsequently, were quietly released. 

The mob outside, from whom violence was every 
moment expected, — who, indeed, had already began 
to make themselves heard against the outer door of 
the council chamber, learned with savage joy that 
three victims were to be executed, and had been 
despatched to Leith. A detachment of the crowd 
hurrying in that direction, relieved the anxious 

VOL. I. O 


councillors. The chancellor thought he might 
safely go home in his coach. As he entered it he 
was cheered, but somehow his leaving the council 
created suspicion in the mob, and they made a rush, 
on his vehicle, from which he narrowly escaped 
alive, finding refuge in Milne's-court, a cul-de-sac, 
where his followers defended him until the crowd, 
satisfied that the original victims were to be sacri- 
ficed, followed their fellows to a more inviting 

This account of the state of Edinburgh is abun- 
dantly supported by the correspondence of the time. 
Of the execution, as it took place on the sands of 
Leith, we have never seen any account, save from 
the most suspicious of sources — the authors of par- 
tisan pamphlets still fiercely denouncing the victims. 
Their wrath was excited by a species of reaction, 
caused by the circulation of Green's dying decla- 
ration, in which evidently, with the aid of skilful 
hands — it betrays some Scottish law technicalities — 
he solemnly, and with great pathos, protested his 
innocence of the crime for which he suffered. In 
one of these denunciatory pamphlets it is stated 
that Green trusted to the last that he would be 
pardoned, and when he was taken down to execu- 
tion deemed it a mere matter of form. " When he 
was upon the ladder," says the writer, " he turned 


off the cloth off his face two several times — no 
doubt in expectation of some reprieve— &nd after 
his being half off the ladder he grasped with hand 
and foot to recover himself back again, till Madder's 
■tern frown (against which the other was not proof) 
frightened him at last in a surprising and unwilling 
compliance with death." When the tragedy was 
completed, and, from many points of hilly Edin- 
burgh, the bodies of the victims might be seen 
swinging on the sands of Leith, the national venge- 
ance was more than satiated, and many of those 
who had been foremost in the strife were afraid to 
think what they had done. 

There was one Scotsman, at least, a man of ster- 
ling patriotism, who viewed the whole proceedings 
with deep disgust and grief. Duncan Forbes after- 
wards stated in the British parliament his belief 
that Green suffered for no other crime than that of 
being an Englishman, at a period of strong national 
animosity; and that he had, as a testimony of his 
feelings, borne the executed convict's head to the 
grave. On this occasion he said, that "in a few 
months after, letters came from the captain, for 
whose murder, and from the very ship for whose 
capture the unfortunate person suffered, informing 
their friends that they were all safe." We are not 
aware of any other allusion to such letters, and 


Forbes merely said that they bore date after the 
time when the piracy by Green was maintained to 
have been committed. He did not refer to the 
subsequent fate of Drummond and his crew, but on 
this point there is literary evidence of a very curious 
and romantic character. 

In the affidavits already alluded to, it is stated 
that the vessel, the Speedy Return, of which Captain 
Stewart was master, and Captain Drummond super- 
cargo, sailed from Britain in May, 1701, and after 
touching at various places, reached Madagascar. 
While Drummond and some others were there on 
shore, a band of pirates were said to have seized the 
vessel, and conveyed her to Rajapore, where she was 
burned. If this were true, a piracy had occurred, 
but it was far distant from the spot where Green was 
alleged to have seized the vessel. In the year 1729 
there was published a curious volume, rivalling 
Robinson Crusoe in interest, called " Madagascar, or 
Robert Drury's Journal during Fifteen Years' Cap- 
tivity in that Island." He states that he was but a 
youth of fourteen when he wais shipwrecked, with the 
rest of the crew of the ship Degrave, on the coast of 
Madagascar. There he found " Captain Drummond, 
a Scotchman," who, he says, was left ashore on his 
vessel being taken by pirates, and was accompanied 
by a Captain Stewart. Drummond appears several 



times among Drury's adventures, ever in a resolute, 
adventurous, and fierce character. He had been 
induced, it seems, Under fallacious hopes, to put 
himself in the hands of the king of the district, who, 
under the effect of toake, immediately boasted, as 
the interpreter told Drummond, that the g<?ds had 
sent the . white man to him, and they should not 
leave him while he lived. " As soon," says the 
narrative, " as Captain Drummond understood this, 
his colour rose, and looking as sternly as the king, 
he replied, * Let him know that if I could have 
suspected this beforehand, he should never have 
seen my face alive; I would have sent some of 
their black souls to hell. It is not their gods — it 
is nothing but fortune and chance has put me into 
his power, and by fortune I may be delivered 
from him.' " Instead of resenting this, " the king, 
seeing Captain Drummond go away in a passion, to 
appease him, sent one of his generals with an ox for 
us to kill, and desired the captain to make himself 
easy; we should be well provided for; if we could 
eat an ox every day, we should have it." 

Nor when Drummond, in attempting to escape, 
shot one of the king's attendants, .did the cunning ■ 
savage betray wrath. In fact, he had made up his 
mind to make the gallant Scotsman's prowess a terror 
to his enemies; and made a proposal that the white 


men, whom disasters at sea had thrown on his terri- 
tories, should enter his service, Drummond taking 
the command of his armies, and the others being dis- 
persed in different bodies. The white men were 
allowed to hold a meeting to deliberate on their 
answer. Then Drummond proposed a project, as 
original as it was bold; to seize the king, his sons, 
and his wives, and forming themselves in a body, 
protected by the presence of their prisoners from 
attack by missiles, fight their way across the 
island to Dauphine — the old deserted French settle- 
ment—where European vessels sometimes touched. 
The first part of the project was executed with entire 
success in the king's capital, and in the middle of 
a vast native force. The captors and their captives 
started on their strange journey, the dusky hordes 
of native troops hovering, almost paralysed by 
astonishment, in the rear of the little phalanx, 
and uttering wild lamentations. For four days, 
the journey was pursued under intense hardships 
and difficulties. Then the spirit of many of 
the white men seems to have been broken; for, 
contrary to Drummond's earnest exhortations, they 
bought relief and aid, with promises of peace, 
from their pursuers, by releasing their prisoners 
one by one. The king himself was the last re- 
leased, under ample assurances that the little band 


might proceed unmolested. In the night, Drum- 
xnond disappeared along with Stewart and a person 
who, in the narrative, was named Bembo. It was 
not mere selfish flight — they returned immediately 
with a force from a neighbouring hostile tribe: but 
it was only to find the mutilated corpses of their 
comrades, who, all but the boy Drury, were 
slaughtered. Drummond, however, never left the 
island. He was for some years a renowned warrior 
under the chief, in whose territories he found 
refuge; and a terror to the tribe who had per- 
fidiously slain his weaker brethren. When, fifteen 
years afterwards, Drury found his way to the other 
side of the island, he made inquiry about the 
fugitives of a man named Dove. " By him," he 
says, " I understood that Mr. Bembo got to Eng- 
land, but Captain Drummond never got off the 
island, he being killed, though the particular 
manner and occasion he could not inform me. But 
they told me one remarkable piece of news, for the 
truth of which I must refer my readers to further 
inquiry. They said that this Captain Drummond 
was the very same man for whose murder and his 
crews', one Captain Green, commander of an East 
India ship, was hanged in Scotland."* If we sup- 
pose Drury's work to be an attempt to pass a fiction 
* Madagascar, p. 436. 


as a true narrative, such a series of incidents, con- 
necting Drummond with the spot where two of 
his crew asserted that he had been left, is precisely 
what an ingenious forger would dovetail into his 
scheme. Though the marvellous character of Drury 's 
narrative, however, did subject it for a time to sus- 
picion, it obtained, on examination, a character for 
veracity; and it is stated in the " Biblioth&que 
Universelle des Voyages," that subsequent in- 
quirers have found his statements of the geography, 
the natural history, the manners of the people, and 
the conspicuous men of the time, remarkably ac- 
curate. But, besides this general testimony, there 
remains a minute and curious piece of incidental 
evidence connecting itself with the person named 
Bembo. In the " Gentleman's Magazine" for 1769,* 
there is an account of William Benbow, a son of the 
gallant admiral, whose last conflict had been at 
once a boast and a scandal to his countrymen, in 
the gallantry of the commander and the baseness of 
his officers. The author of that notice regrets 
that a memoir, written by William Benbow, was 
accidentally consumed, and proceeds to say: " The 
most curious and interesting part of it was that in 
which he gave an account of the crew of the Degrave 
—East Indiaman — seizing after their shipwreck a 
♦ P, 171. 


black king, his queen, and son in Madagascar, and 
marching with them over part of the island, and of 
his escaping from his companion to port Dauphine." 
And then, referring to Drury's work, he says : " Mr. 
Benbow's narrative is a strange confirmation of the 
truth of this journal, with which, so far as it went, 
it exactly tallied." 



A LONG conflict between two great houses in the 

North reached its climax in a tragedy so strange 

and horrible, that it became marked and renowned 

among the thousands of feudal outrages which fill 

the history of the period. Though common fame 

stamped it as an act of feudal vengeance, its secret 

history was never entirely explained. Investigations 

which were apparently, at least, judicial, and which 

professed very laboriously and impartially to strive 

after the truth, left the matter doubtful; and the 

most prejudiced historians could never say that 

[ their dark •suspicions were entirely proved. With 

| pretty abundant materials, it is impossible, even at 

| the present day, entirely to clear up the mystery; 

; but we caii see by what machinations inquiry was 

! baffled, and we can draw the natural inference. We 


can see who holds the curtain before it, though we 
may not see who is acting the tragedy. 

Before the great families of Scotland lost their 
power, the Gordons ruled it from the northern slope 
of the Grampians, through Aberdeenshire to the 
Murray Firth. In the seventeenth century, a rival 
family — that of the Orichtons — which had risen in 
formidable emulation in the same district, bid fair 
to overwhelm and supersede the old power of the 
Gordons. But in the events we are going to relate, 
they sunk in the contest} and disappeared from the 
territorial aristocracy of Scotland, leaving nothing 
behind them in the northern part of the country 
but the remembrance of their power and tyranny. 

In the southern shires, however, where they ob- 
tained their earliest position, they took a place in 
history. The common mistake of historians to 
suppose that the history of the court is that of the 
nation, makes those branches of a family who lived 
near Edinburgh conspicuous political personages; 
while others, who had semi-regal powers at a fortu- 
nate distance from Holyrood House, are as obscure 

• in history as fox-hunting squires. In the ordinary 
sources of information little is said about the 
Crichtons of the North, but the portion of the 

* family who settled near Edinburgh occupy a con- 
siderable space in the annals of the earlier Jameses. 



In the middle of the fifteenth century the family 
had a struggle for supremacy with the Doug- 
lases in the South, as they afterwards had with the 
Gordons in the North. They seem never to have 
been very scrupulous of the means by which they 
obtained their ambitious ends; and among a series 
of violent, not to say criminal acts, the reader of 
history will readily remember the slaughter of the 
young Douglases in Edinburgh Castle, when a black 
bull's head was presented to them, as a token that 
the hospitable board to which they were invited 
was converted into their place of execution. 

Of this southern branch of the Crichtons, however, 
more pleasing recollections are preserved in the beau- 
tiful remains of their palace stronghold, standing on 
a wild moor, at the head of the Scottish Tyne; but 
covered with those rich oriental-looking decorations 
which justify Scott's luxuriant, yet accurate, descrip- 
tion of them in " Marmion," commencing, 

"Nor wholly yet hath time defaced 
Thy lordly gallery fair, 
Nor yet the stony cord unbraced, 
Whose twisted knots with roses laced, 
Adorn thy mined stair." 

But let us look northward, where, as the southern 
branch of the family who had endeavoured to rise 
by court intrigue and influence were gradually 
declining, their cousins were adding acre unto acre, 



and effectually but quietly acquiring great signorial 
powers. They founded houses in the shires of 
Perth and Aberdeen, continuing in the old Scottish 
fashion to support each other in their feuds. Thus, 
in 1599, we find that Sir Robert Crichton of Cluny, 
charged with the slaughter of William Meldrum 
of Montcoffer, gets his kinsman, John Crichton of 
Invernytie, in Aberdeenshire, to be his security ; and 
his trial is postponed, because it is understood that 
he is to appear in court accompanied -by so large a 
band of followers, that his majesty thinks it neces- 
sary to adjourn the proceedings, lest " great incon- 
venience may ensue, to the disquieting of our 
peaceable subjects and present estate."* There is a 
temptation to notice this small incident, in the cir- 
cumstance that the marvel of heroism and rhetoric 
— the Admirable Crichton — was a Crichton of 
Cluny, and appears to have been the brother of 
this Sir Robert. 

The principal residence of the Crichtons in 
Aberdeenshire was the fortalice of Frendraught, 
the mouldering remains of which, just rising 
above the ground, amid some venerable trees, are 
looked on with mysterious awe, as if they were 
yet some day to reveal the dread secret of their 

* Fitcairn's Criminal Trials, iL, 77. 


transmutation in one night from a fair hall to a 
black heap of ruins. The traditions of the peasantry 
always associate the extinct race of the Crichtons 
with a career of oppression and violence, and archae- 
ological vestiges of a far earlier period are gene- 
rally assigned, after the usual custom of tradition, 
to some real or imagined event in their evil his- 
tory. Thus a topographical writer in a periodical 
of the year 1761, says: " About a quarter of a mile 
west of Frendraught, on the roadside at Tarvis 
bum, is to be seen an old cairn or heap of stone, 
the tradition about which is, that at this place the 
last Dunbar of Frendraught was murdered in re- 
gard he refused to consent to his daughter's mar- 
riage with Criohton, and which was perpetrated by 
some of his followers, after which he married the 
lady and took possession of the estate. A mile 
south-east of Frendraught, on the roadside towards 
Glen Mellen, is Murray's cairn, at which place Mur- 
ray of Cowbardy was murdered by the Crichtons 
upon some slight quarrel. Half a mile north from 
Frendraught, on the top of the Riach hill, stood the 
gibbet, upon which many suffered, as may be seen 
by the remains of their graves; and a little below 
the bridge of Forgue are to be seen the graves of 
a gang of gipsies who suffered death by drowning. 


The lords of Frendraught were severe justiciaries 
within their own regality. Many other accounts of 
their severity might be here added."* 

The great rivals and enemies of the rising house 
of Crichton were, of course, the Gordons. With the 
one or the other every person was required to enrol 
himself in clientage, and woe to him who should 
attempt to live independent of both. In that day 
it was the practice for those who did not belong to 
some considerable family in alliance with the domi- 
nant house, to take its name. To be without a chief 
involved a kind of disrepute; and those who had 
no distinct personal position of their own would find 
it necessary to become a Gordon or a Crichton, as 
prudence or inclination might point out. It was a 
not unfeequent practice to come under written 
obligation to take the surname of some great house. 
Thus, we have seen of so late a date as 1711, a 
bond by which John and James Macgregor say we 
" bind and oblige us, our heirs and successors, and 
all that ever shall come of us and our families 
whatsomever, to call ourselves and to be Gordons, 
still attending and depending on the noble family 
of Huntly, and that both in word and write in all 

* Edinburgh Magazine, 1761. Reprinted in Antiquities of 
the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, il., 820. 


time coming: and we further oblige us that we 
never shall subscribe to or sign any papers but 
Gordon as aforesaid." 

Gordon of Rothiemay having estates which, being 
contiguous to those of Crichton, had to bear all the 
evils of a frontier territory, there were conflicts in 
the law courts, followed out by hand-to-hand bat- 
tles with broadsword and matchlock. One of these 
engagements took place in 1630, and was fought 
with great obstinacy. Rothiemay was mortally 
wounded, and only survived for a few days. The 
relations of the slain man made arrangements for 
taking signal vengeance; and in addition to their 
own followers, they obtained the aid of a kind of 
mercenary soldiery, ready at that time for any 
service in any part of the world — the Highland 
freebooters, of whom 200 well armed, were en- 
camped round the house of Rothiemay, under two 
renowned robber chieftains named Grant, against 
whom the law had in vain been fulminating for 
years together. The head of the Gordons, however, 
the Marquis of Huntly, and his relation, Sir Robert 
Gordon, used all their efforts to arrest the threat- 
ened " harrying," as it was termed, of the territory 
of the Crichtons. They were unusually successful 
in producing at least an apparent reconciliation, 


" and so all parties having shaken hands in the 
orchard of Strathbogie, they were heartily recon- 

The Crichtons agreed to pay a sum of 50,000 
merks to Rothiemay's widow " in composition 
of the slaughter." A follower or client of Crich- 
ton, called John Meldrum, of RedhiU, had been 
wounded in the fray with Rothiemay. He ex- 
pected some reward for his services which he 
did not obtain, and took umbrage at his chief. 
For a gentleman of landed property his method 
of seeking redress would in the present day 
be considered somewhat strange. " Whereupon,. 
John Meldrum cometh secretly, under silence of 
the night, to the park of Frendraught, and con- 
veyeth away two of Frendraught's best horses. 
Frendraught taketh this lightly, and calleth John 
Meldrum before the justice for theft. He turneth 
rebel, and doth not appear."* He was sheltered in 
the strong fortalice of his brother-in-law, Leslie of 
Pitcaple. Frendraught and his relation, Crichton 
of Conland, met by accident the son of Leslie of 
Pitcaple, and high words passed about the shelter- 

* Gordon's Genealogical History of the Earldom of Suther- 
land, p. 419. 

VOL. I. F 


ing of Meldrum. In the middle of the dispute, 
Crichton of Conland drew forth a pistol, and shot 
young Leslie. Thus out of a family who had been 
their warm friends, the Crichtons made bitter 
feudal enemies. Frendraught, alarmed apparently 
at his position, appeared desirous to conciliate the 
Gordons, and asked the Marquis of Huntly to use 
his influence to heal the feud with the Leslies. 
But young Leslie was lying in his father's hall, be- 
tween life and death, and a reconciliation under 
such circumstances was impossible. Frendraught had 
urged his suit when on a visit to Huntly's castle, 
and the chivalrous chief of the Gordons was desirous 
that he should, at alt events, be safe in returning 
from the Castle of Strathbogie to his own home ; 
a very unlikely consummation, since an armed band 
of the Leslies were on the watch to waylay him. 
Huntly, after having entertained him for a few 
days, sent his son, Lord Aboyne, and the young 
Laird of Rothiemay as his escorts. 

When they reached Frendraught, they were 
desired to remain there and partake of its hospi- 
talities. The Lady Frendraught was especially 
anxious that they should seal the abandonment of 
the old feud between the Gordons and the Crich- 
tons in conviviality. In the words of an old 


" When steeds were saddled, and well bridled, 
And ready for to ride; 
Then out came she and false Frendrsught, 
Inviting them to bide. 

" Said, * Stay this night until we sup, 
The morn until we dine; 
'Twill be a token of good Agreement, 
Twixt your good lord and mine.' " 

They remained, and thus Frendraught had under 
his ro<5f the son of his great feudal enemy, Huntly, 
and the son of the man for whose slaughter he 
had to make pecuniary compensation. Fart of the 
Castle of Frendraught was the grim, windowless, 
Sid square tower, so common in Scotland. Each 
floor had but one chamber, the thick walls occupy* 
ing the greater part of the space. The lowest 
chamber was vaulted, the others were covered with 
wood. The owners of such edifices were sometimes 
jealous of permanent stairs, and in the centre of the 
vault at Frendraught „ there was a round hole for 
reaching the floor above by a ladder. In the room 
thus entered slept Aboyne, with his follower Ro- 
bert Gordon, and his page " English WilL" In 
the floor above slept Rothiemay with some of his 
followers, and in the third another band of fol- 
lowers; it was observed that the whole of the party 
who had escorted Frendraught from Strathbogie 


were lodged in this tower. After a convivial even- 
ing they slept soundly. What afterwards hap- 
pened, cannot be better told than in the simple 
words of a contemporary annalist: 

" Thus all being at rest, about midnight this 
dolorous tour took fire in so suddent and furious 
a manner, yea, in one clap, that this noble viscount, 
the Laird of Rothiemay, English Will, Colin Ivat, 
another of Aboyne's servitours, and other twaj being 
six in number, were cruelly brunt and tormented to 
the death, but help or relief, the Laird of Fren- 
draught, his lady and whole household, looking 
on without moving or stirring to deliver them frft 
the fury of this fearful fire as was reported, 

" Robert Gordon, called Sutherland Robert, being 
in the viscount's chamber escaped this fire with his 
life. George Chalmer, and Captain Rollok being 
in the third room, escaped also this fire, and, as was 
said, Aboyne might have saved himself also if he 
had gone out of doors, quhilk he would not do, but 
sudaintly ran up-stairs to Rothiemay *s chamber and 
wakened him to rise; and as he is wakening him 
the timber passage and lofting of the passage hastily 
takes fire, so that none of them could come down 
stairs again. So they turned to ane window looking 
to the close, where they piteously cried help, help, 


many times, for God's cause. The laird and the 
lady with their servants, all seeing and hearing 
this woful crying, but made no help nor maner 
of helping, which they perceiving, they cried often 
times mercy at God's hands for their sins, syne 
claspit in each other's armes and cheerfully suffered 
this cruel martyrdom. Thus died this noble viscount 
of singular expectation, Rothiemay, a brave youth, 
and the rest, by this doleful fire never enough to be 
deplored, to the great sorrow and grief of their kin, 
friends, parents, and hail country people, especially 
the noble marquis, who for his good-will got this 

This tragedy, round which many of the tradi- 
tions of the north centre, has been told in rhyme 
as well as prose, and as we shall see in more than 
one language. " The fire of Frendraught" is well 
known to the students of Scottish ballad literature. . 
Often has the writer of this notice heard it in early 
childhood sung or chanted near the spot, and not 
sensibly varying in the various mouths which gave 
utterance to it; the evidently genuine version of it 
in Motherwell's minstrelsy gives it to the reader 
exactly as the peasant would repeat it to the curious 
listener. This embodiment of the deep popular 

* Spalding's Memorialls of the Trables. Spalding Club edi- 
tion, i., 18. 


indignation of the time has already been noticed, 
and a further quotation from it will readily dovetail 
into this part of the narrative: 

" They had not long cast off their deaths, 
And were bat now ■riocp, 
When the weary smoke began to rise. 
Likewise the scorching heat. 

" ' O waken, waken, Rothiemay, 
O waken, brother dear, 
And turn you to our Saviour; 
There is strong treason here.' 

"When they were dressed in their deaths, 
And ready for to boon, 
The doors and windows was all secured — 
The roof-tree burning down. 

" He did him to the weir window 
As fast as he could gang— # 

Says — wae to the hands put in the stancheons, 
For oat well never win. 

** When he stood at the weir window, 
Host doleful to be seen, 
He did espy her Lady Frendraught, 
Who stood upon the green. * 

" Cried, « Mercy— mercy— Lady Frendraught ; 
Will ye not sink with sin? 

For first your husband killed my father, , 

And then you burn his son.' 

" O then out-spoke her Lady Frendraught, 
And loudly did she cry: 
•It were great pity for good Lord John, 
But none for Rothiemay. 

But the keys are casten in the deep draw-well;* ■ 

Ye cannot get away.' " , 

* The editor of another collection of ballads, Mr. Finlay, in 

reference to this verse, of which he had but an imperfect copy, ' 



The event was described and lamented by a poet 
of higher aspirations and wider ambition. Arthur 
Johnston, the rival of Buchanan, dedicated two 
Latin poems to the Fren draught tragedy; and, as 
they were printed and chiefly read in Holland, he 
might speak out. He writes like one who had 
stood among the horrid ruins; and we know that he 
lived near the spot, since he commemorates in one 
of his curious and pleasant epigrams the shadow of 
the neighbouring hill of Bennochie just touching 
his paternal estate in the horizontal sunlight of the 
equinox. After many of the common places of the 
imitators of the classics, as, 

"Horruit aspectu tellus et pontus et aether," 

he descends to particularities, which show that his 
sympathy, if not some stronger feeling, was em- 
barked in the sad history : 

" Innocuos juvines, patriis in finibus, inter 
Mille clientelas et avito sanguine junctos 
Hospitii dominos, omnis damnique dolique 
Secures — somnoque graves, et noctis opacas 
Vellatos tenebris, animatis sulphure flammis 
Vidimus extinctos, et tracta cadavera fcedis 

says, he was told that " many years afterwards, when the well 
was cleared out, this tradition was corroborated by their finding 
the keys — at least, such was the report of the country." 
There never is a specific tradition of any event without also a 
tradition or report of some discovery corroborating it. 


Indignisque modis, postquam sunt ultima passi. 
Tristis et infelbc et semper inhospita turris; 
Momento succensa brevi, semul ima supremis 
Miscuit, et tumulos thalamis et funera somno, 
Et famulis dominos, quorum confusa jacebant 
Obruta ruderibus cinis, ossa, cadavera; namque 
Corporis unius, memini, pars ossa fuerunt 
Pars cinis immundus — tostum pars igne cadaver; 
Quam sors dura fuit! vivos dum pascitur ignis 
Nemo manu, prcece nemo juvat, nee abire parantes 
Qui8quam animas pius ore legit, vocesve supremas 
Aure bibit, dextra vel lumina condit arnica, 
Nemo sacra cineres turbatos excipit urna» w * 

The ashes of the dead were however collected in 
separate caskets or coffins, and conveyed to the 
church of Gartly, where the country people will still 

* Johnstoni Parerga, p. 332. Arthur Johnston was the poet 
whose version of the psalms Benson published in so magnificent 
a shape, eliciting from Pope the sarcastic couplet which con- 
nects it with his monument to Milton: 

" On two unequal crutches propt he came, 
Milton on this— on that one Johnston's name." 

Whether Johnston justly deserved the antithesis which con- 
demns him to the Dunciad order, the reader may perhaps 
judge from the specimen of his efforts given above. The 
northern reader, who is not generally deemed well qualified to 
judge critically of such productions, is content to acknowledge 
the interest excited by a Latinist, who goes over so many 
local and personal subjects, on which he may be supposed to 
have actually felt, instead of adopting " classic models." He 
was one of many Scottish Latinists of that age, who had a con- 
tinental, rather than a home reputation. The English was 
becoming the literary language of Britain, and the vernacular 
Scottish so far differed from it, that Scotsmen found it easier 
to write in Latin than in English. 


show the vault in which they are traditionally said to 
lie. These pious duties being performed, the Gordons 
of course turned their thoughts to vengeance. Spald- 
ing, the chronicler, says it was resolved that to propi- 
tiate them, on the day after the tragedy, the Lady of 
» Irendraught, in a white plaid or wimple, " and riding 
on ane small nag, having ane boy leading her horse 
without any more in her company," went weeping 
to the gates of Strathbogie beseeching an audience 
of the Marquis of Huntly, but was sternly repulsed, 
" and returned back to her own house the same 
gate she came — comfortless." Some polemical wri- 
ters have endeavoured to prove that the boy who so 
accompanied her was her confidential adviser — a 
Jesuit in disguise. There is curious evidence that 
the lady kept such a person in her employment, 
though her husband was a professedly zealotis Pres- 
byterian, whom the Catholics charged with a reli- 
gious enmity to the house of Gordon. A certain 
Gilbert Blackhal, who had been a secret and 
dexterous agent of the Jesuits in the most danger- 
ous times and places, left a journal of his adven- 
tures, in which he says: " My lady of Frendraught 
did send to me praying me to come to her to be 
her ordinary, for the frlre whom she had before was 
departed from this life. I refused absolutely to 
see her, because she was suspected to be guilty of 


the death of my Lord of Aboyne, who seven years 
ago was burned in the castle of Frendraught. w# 

While the lady was on her penitential mission 
grave council was held in the Castle of Strathbogie, 
whether Lord Errol and other distant partisans of 
the Gordons had hastened. We are told that the 
assembly, u after serious consultation, concluded this 
fearful fire could not come by chance, sloth, or 
accident, but that it was plotted and devised of set 
purpose; whereof Frendraught, his lady, his. friends, 
or servitors, one or other was upon the knowledge.'* 
Having come to this conclusion, it was held that the 
criminality of the parties was so open to proof, that 
private vengeance or feudal war would be unneces- 
sary — it was better to seek Tedress at the hands of 
the law. Thus the belief entertained by the Gor- 
dons, and generally participated in, was that the 
demon of family hate had driven Frendraught to 
the murder of the confiding guests, though it could 
only be accomplished by the destruction of his own 

Frendraught went immediately to Perth, where 
the chancellor was residing, and threw himself on 
the protection of that powerful officer, passing with 
him to Edinburgh, where he declared that he was 

* A Brieffe Narration of the Services done to three Nohle 
Ladyes, by Gilbert Blackhal, p. 58. 


prepared to abide all investigation, maintaining that 
the act "was committed by some devilish and 
odious plotters against him, his life, and estate," 
and begging in the mean time that he might receive 
protection in his person and property from the fury 
of his enemies. Thereupon commenced a series of 
tedious and perplexing legal proceedings, wherein 
with bustling pomposity the most untiring efforts 
appear to have been made to discover the criminal. 
In the midst of a general confusion of commissions, 
dittays, questions with the boots, deliverances, 
"summonds, exceptions, replies, duplies, indices, 
and presumptions produced and used therewith," 
one figure ever appears in the midst of the confu- 
sion calm and undisturbed — this is Frendraught 
himself, who resides with his friend the chancellor, 
attends the meetings of the privy council occa- 
sionally, and is never troubled or questioned, while 
the pursuit after minor personages becomes ever 
hotter and fiercer. The privy council seemed for 
some months to have no other business but this in- 
quiry. They commenced it on truly inductive 
principles. The Earl Marshal, the Bishops of 
Aberdeen and Murray, with some others, were ap- 
pointed as a committee of the privy council " to 
sight and view the house of Frendraught, and to 
consider the frame and structure thereof, and how 
and by what means the fire was raised within the 


same, and if the fire was accidental or done of set 
purpose by the hand of man, and if there be any 
possibility or probability that the fire could have 
been raised by any persons without the house." 
The committee were appointed on the 1st of Febru- 
ary, 1631. On the 4th of April they made a re- 
port on the spot distinct enough so far as it goes; 
€t We find by all likelyhood that the fire whereby 
the house was burnt was first raised in a vault, 
wherein we find evidences of fire in three sundry 
parts; one at the farthest end thereof, another to- 
wards the mids, and the third in that part which 
is hard by the hole that is under the bed which was 
in the chamber above. Your good lordships will 
excuse us if we determine not concerning the fire, 
whether it was accidental or of set purpose by the 
hand of man, only this much it seemeth probable 
unto us, after consideration of the forme of the 
house and other circumstances, that no hand with- 
out could have raised the fire without aid from 

It was necessary to let the virtuous fury of the 
law loose on some obscure victims. A young wo- 
man, named Margaret Wood, was accused of the 
crime, on what ground it is hard to say. The ac- 
count of her treatment is sickening. After she was 
subjected to the torture of the boots, she would yet 



make no admission justifying further proceedings, 
against her for the murder. She seems, indeed, to 
have provoked the fury of her judges by directly 
accusing Frendraught, in whose service she was; 
for, according to the record of the Court of Justi- 
ciary, she " did compear before his majesty's council, 
and so far as in her lay, did lay the odious and 
treasonable crime of burning the house of Fren- 
draught upon a baron and gentleman of good quality, 
and thereafter, in her several depositions made 
before the said lords, did openly and manifestly 
perjure herself, blaspheme the name of Almighty 
God, and abuse, with her false lies and calumnies, 
the said lords of his majesty's council." And there-, 
fore the poor woman, because, under the effect of 
torture, she so far forgot herself as to point to the 
powerful man whom all believed to be guilty, was 
sentenced to be " scourged through the burgh 
of Edinburgh, and banished the kingdom." John 
Tosh, a follower of Frendraught, was next accused 
and brought to trial. The dettay, or indictment, 
sets forth that Tosh, "upon what devilish insti- 
gation altogether unknown," in the dead hour of 
the night, when all the people and servants of the 
place were at rest, " passed secretly to ane chamber 
where one Thomas Joss, ane of his fellow-servants 
within the same place, and ane keeper of the key 


of the vaults, whilk was directly under the tower 
wherein the said Lord Viscount of Melgum 
[ Aboyne], the said Laird Rothiemay and their com* 
pany lay, and secretly staw (stole) and brought 
away with him the key out of the said Thomas Joss, 
his breeks and pouches thereof, the said Thomas 
being in bed and fast a£ sleep for the time; and 
thereafter came to the said vault or laigh seller, be- 
neath the said tower; and having opened the door 
thereof, and drawn in and conveyed thereintil cer- 
tain fagots, timber, powder, flax, and other com- 
bustible matter provided and prepared by him; he, 
the said John Tosh, out of ane devilish and desperate 
humour, fired the same, by the firing and kindling 
whereof, the said loftdngs above the said vault, 
especially the chambers in the said tower wherein 
the said lord viscount, the Laird of Rothiemay, and 
their servants and followers, to the number of six 
persons, Christian souls, were most pitifully burned 
to dead." 

To urge him to confess this preposterous story, 
he was put" to the torture of the boots," and next 
"to the torture of the pilniwinkies ;" yet, as his 
counsel expressed it, hq "in all his sufferings of 
baith the said tortures, constantly and upon his great 
oath, declared that he was no ways the burner of 
the house of Frendraught, acter, nor accessorie 


thereto, or that he knew anything anent the burn- 
ing of the said house, nor who was the doer there- 
of." It appears that there was some reason for 
charging him with possessing for a short time, on 
that memorable night, the key of the vault. He 
went thither, it seems, to get a drink of water; and 
it was adduced against him, that one time he said 
it was for Domingo, the chief cook, and at another 
time for Buck, the under cook. He was asked 
about a " great lost," or chest which stood in the 
vault, supposed to have contained combustibles; but 
he could afford no revelations about it or anything. 
There was not a shadow of real evidence against 
him, though the crown counsel said poetically, that 
" all the particular indices being massed together, 
they may well be counted as stars to see the night 

It was impossible to make out a case against 
Tosh; and, as a victim must be found, the next 
attack made was on Frendraught's enemy and ex- 
retainer, Meldrum. In the charge against him al- 
lusion is made to the abduction of the horses already 
mentioned — an offence aggravated by the insolent 
manner in which Meldrum rode about the country 
with them. It was laid down, that as he stood in 
dread of just punishment at the instance of Fren- 
draught, he resolved to revenge himself by blowing 


up the castle, through the aid of the Highland 
freebooters headed by John Grant, " ane notorious 
sorner, outlaw, thief, and rebel," It certainly was 
shown that he had expressed sufficient bitterness 
against Frendraught, and threatened that he would 
bring together as many Highlanders " as would sup 
him in brose." He frequently said an evil turn 
would overtake Frendraught, and according to 
some witnesses alluded to fire as the form it should 
take- Grant himself was caught and examined ; 
he said that Meldrum held conversations with him, 
and that he was evidently " bent upon revenge, 
and had ane purpose to enter on blood;" but that 
he, Grant, had too many other affairs on hand to 
enter into his views. The only further specific 
evidence appears to have been the statement of an 
individual since executed, that on the fatal night 
he met several horsemen in a road leading to Fren- 
draught, u among whom he knew John Meldrum, 
riding on ane mirk grey horse with ane millon 
cloak." When Tosh was charged with the crime, 
it was held that it must have been perpetrated by 
persons having access to the building. Meldrum 
and his abettors were on the other hand charged 
with executing it externally, " having brought with 
them ane large quantity of powder, pitch, brim- 
stone, flax, and other combustible matter, provided 


by them for the purpose, and put and conveyed the • 
same in and through the slits and stones of the 
vault of the sai4 great tower of Frendraught." The 
impossibility of his doing this without aid from 
within, was urged by his counsel; while it was in- 
geniously put that if he had an accomplice in the 
mansion, that accomplice must have known that 
the vengeance on that night would fall not on Fren- 
draught, but on Meldrum's own friends. A sen- 
tence or two may be taken as a specimen of forensic 
pleading in Scotland at that period: 

lt Gif there was any slit therein (in the wall) it 
was very narrow, and the wall ten foot thick, or 
thereabout (now ye see good men of inquest how 
necessar it is that the assisers should have been 
countrymen who could have known thir things 
best), so that neither could a man without wield his 
hand well to cast, put, or shoot in combustible, or 
kindle the same where it fell; but some in the dark 
would have escaped the inputter and fallen by the 
way (the wall being ten feet thick), and would have 
come back by that same slit, whereof great vestiges 
would have been found even from without (whilk 
was not — neither can ye of the assize know, not 
being of the country). Then what possibility to 
wield ane spear through a slit ten foot thick, and 
so narrow, to make anything touch the hole of 

VOL. I. Q 


the vault that is alleged to be under my Lord of 
Melgum (Aboyne) his bed, without direction 
-within, and (that) is already cleared not to have 
been. Then the force of the powder and that 
other matter if it had fallen against the meal arks, 
it had broken if not burnt them; and if it had 
not come back to the slit (as likely it would, because 
it could not lie far from it, for the uneasiness of the 
inputting of the same as said is), at least going to 
the hole or O in the vault, it should have broken 
the ladder, and being redacted in angustias, that is 
to one great straigtness, it would ^have blown up 
some of the vault near the head or O with ane 
great noise, and my Lord Melgum to have been 
first slain before burnt; where only the constant 
report is, that there was ane great smoking before 
he did awake, both in his chamber, and the other 
where a boy was suffocate, and gave him liberty to 
put on his clothes, and by the will of God went up 
the stair when he ought to have come down." On 
the absence of direct evidence, he says: " Fandnane 
him to go out? Did not the doors or yets of the 
house geig and make a noise, or how was the yet 
of Fitcaple opened? Fand nane him to return? 
Did nane meet him? Did nane see him but a 
vacillant, variant, contradictory villain, what was 
scourged and burnt on the cheek for the same; and 


thereafter being tane for ane other crime, was 
paneled and condemned. * * * Item, there 
were ane number of horse; unlike preparation for 
such a business. Also, he might well be refuted by 
your wisdoms, as that other by the Amphictions, 
who testified that he saw in the night Alcibiades, 
and kenned him casting down the statue of Mercurie 
at Athens. But to leave him in his darkness, I go 
on and speirs (ask). How runs the panel so quickly, 
ten or twelve miles, etiam cum tot impedementis, 
and burdens that he behoved to have, if the dittay 
be true? Went he on foot or horse? Wha held 
the horse? Whare, also, was the combustible 
matter coft? In what market, or booth, or fra 
whom gotten? Wha caried the fire? How did 
the combustible matter so wall or join with the fire; 
and if there was tinder buist, where, or how gotten? 
How had the panel all this leisure and time to set 
all thir things in order when he came to the slit? 
Was there no din nor crak heard — no* dog to 

Meldrum was found guilty, condemned, hanged, 
and quartered, the quarters being spiked on con- 
spicuous places "in example of others to do the 
like," as Spalding quaintly says. The belief of the 
country, as handed down by tradition, was, that 
Frendraught had thus been able to strike another 


enemy. It will be seen that no evidence against m 
him was received— that it was considered an offence 
to accuse him. Popular fame charged him, how- 
ever, with the murder ; and in the narrative ofFather 
Blackwell— not, however, to be much relied on, as 
he nourished a strong theological hatred of the 
Crichtons— it is asserted that Frendraught kindled 
the fire, and stood armed in the court-yard to sky 
his victims, should they escape. Frendraught ap- 
pears to have endeavoured to propitiate the clergy, 
since in the parish church of Forgue there are com- 
munion cups and a paten of silver, with the inscrip- 
tion: ♦'Giftet to God and his Kirk, by James 
Crichton, of Frendraught, 1633."* He appears, 
too-, to have re-fitted the interior of the parish 
church, and to have carved many pious inscriptions 
on the pews. These propitiations were, perhaps, 
rendered the more necessary by the recusancy of 
his lady, who was born a Roman Catholic, and ap- 
pears to have kept the renowned Presbytery of 
Strathbogie in continual turmoil. In the Index to 
" Extracts from the Presbytery-book of Strath- 
bogie," printed by the Spalding Club, the head 
" Frendraught, the Lady of," commences thus: u To 
be dealt with; promises to hear the word; offers to 
go to the church to which her husband goes; out of 
* Statistical Account of Scotland, xii, 598. 


the country; gets liberty to attend at Forgue; is 
willing to hear the word in any kirk but.Aber- 
chirder; to be summoned for her avowed Papistry; 
required to subscribe the covenant ; she promises to 
consider of it; subscribes it; promises to give up 
the detestable ways of Popery or Popish idolatry;" 
and so on. The chief complaint against her is for 
only occasional, instead of steady attendance at 
sermons; and her vindications are sometimes petu- 
lant and amusing. She seems, on the whole, to 
have shown a pertinacity and passive obstinacy 
which exhausted the restless energies of the inqui- 
sitorial presbytery, who, after declaring her to be 
44 pertinax," appear in the end to have been obliged 
to content themselves with very general assurances 
of conformity, which they seem to have known 
that she did not follow. On one of the occasions in 
which her case is brought on, her husband applies 
to the presbytery to allow him a tutor of " good 
life and conversation," and given to "frequent 
exercises," for the instruction of his children; as if 
he desired to keep the minds of the reverend gentle- 
men fixed on something which might weigh against 
the lady's heterodoxy. 

Frendraught, though he had with a high hand 
averted even the pretence of inquiry on the part 
of the government, did not go unpunished, whether 


he was guilty or not- There was another power in 
Scotland in that day besides the law, which found 
him guilty and executed sentence on him. Avoided 
and detested by his neighbours, the whole swarm 
of mountain freebooters considered his broad acres 
their proper prey. Highland rievers seem to have 
travelled hundreds of miles for the special purpose 
of harrying the lordship of Frendraught. The privy 
council records are filled with eloquently distracted 
denunciations of them. Thus, on the 1 3th of No- 
vember, 1634, certain charges against the Marquis of 
Huntly and others commence, " For as muckle as 
the lords of secret council are informed that great 
numbers of sorners and broken men in the Clan 
Gregor, Clan Lachlan, and other broken clans in 
Lochabar, Strathdon, Glencoe, Braemarj and other 
parts of the Highlands, as also divers of the name 
of Gordon, and their dependers and followers in 
the country, have this long time, and now lately, 
very grievously infested his majesty's loyal subjects 
in the north parts, especially the Laird of Fren- 
draught and his tenants, by frequent' slaughters, 
heirships, and barbarous cruelties committed upon 
them, and by ane late treasonable fire-raising within 
the said Laird of Frendraught his lands, whereby 
not only is all the gentleman's lands laid waste, his 
kail yards and bestial spoiled, slain, and mangled, 


some of his servants slain and cruelly demeaned, 
but also the haill tenants of his lands have left his 
service, and himself, with the hazard of his life, has 
been forced to steal away under night, and have 
his refuge in his majesty's council." Another 
document calls on the sheriffs of the northern 
counties to raise the posse comitates, and endeavour 
to arrest a set of people with unreadable High- 
land names, " on the suspicion that they are the 
authors and committers of the late disorders and 
insurrections in the north, and of the heirships, 
depredations, fire-raising, and other disorders upon 
the Laird of Frendraught, his tenants and servants, 
whose haill goods they have lifted, laid their lands 
waste, and hanged one of the poor tenants on the 
gallows of Strathbogie; and with ane high hand of 
rebellion they have resolved to make themselves 
masters of the said Laird of Frendraught his haill 
estate, and to possess themselves therein, and to 
keep the same by strength of arms in contempt and 
defiance of law and justice, being assisted in their 
disorders and rebellious courses by numbers of 
broken Highlandmen and others, with whom they 
go up and down the country ravaging and oppress- 
ing his majesty's good subjects, and especially poor 
ministers who have not power to oppose their vio- 
lence, and that in so hostile and terrible ane man- 


ner as the like has not been heard at any time here- 

These "limmers" and " sorners," who also some* 
times receive on the present occasion the curious 
name of " light horsemen," were of course hanged 
in bunches when they could be caught. One of 
them — the renowned Gilderoy — has already come 
under our notice in the account of the legal con- 
flicts with the Clan Gregor. His coadjutors, who 
were generally like himself members of " broken 
clans," enjoyed a grotesque variety of names — 
such as, John Malcolmie, Allaster Mclnneir, Ewin 
Macgregor, alias Macawish, John Dow Garr, Neil 
Mclnstalker, Ewin Neil McPhadric, Duncan Roy 
Darg, &c. The charges against these ruffians range 
from the most extensive to the smallest scale of 
plunder — from the pillage of houses and the murder 
of their inmates, to the kidnapping of stray poultry 
— in a ludicrous fashion. In fact, these gentry were 
, so light-footed as well as light- fingered, that it 
was extremely difficult to get evidence of their 
feats; and therefore, any matter, however trifling, 
which could be proved, must not be lost sight of in 
the general reckoning. We have seen that Gilderoy 
was seized by Argyle, the hereditary enemy of the 
Macgregors, to whom thanks for this great service 
were recorded by the privy council. So weak an 


executive as Scotland then had were glad of the aid 
even of inferior instruments, and they followed the 
policy of setting rogue against rogue. In the ravages 
of Frendraught, a certain Finlay McGrimm bore a 
part. He was attacked and seized by some Mao 
gregors, probably not much more honest than 
himself, who brought his head to the table of the 
privy council. This august body " finds they 
have done good service therein, excusing them 
from all crime and offence that may be impute 
to them for this cause. Like as the said lords 
ordains the bailies of Edinburgh to affix the said 
Finlay McGrimm 's head upon the netherbow port; 
and the said lords ordain John Earl of Tra- 
quair, his majesty's depute treasurer, to deliver to 
the party, bearer and in-bringer of McGrimm's 
head, the sum of a hundred merks, in satisfaction 
of his hazard and charge, and for encouragement of 
others cheerfully to go on in the like service in time 

The country had adopted the opinion that the 
house of Frendraught were doomed, and it brought 
about the event by treating it as being so. The 
territory was wasted and depopulated, its owner 
was hated and avoided, and in little more than 
half a century after the tragedy the family ceased 
to exist. At court, however, Frendraught had at 


first the successful side of the conflict. Huntly, who 
was charged with the responsibility of the outrages 
in the north, and who was suffering in spirit from 
the death of his gallant son, had to repair to court in 
his old age, and never returned to his castle and his 
followers. His latter days have been affectionately 
commemorated by the annalist, Spalding, with 
whose notice of his redeeming character, the account 
of the Frendraught tragedy may be concluded.* 

" This mighty marquis was of ane great spirit, 
for in time of trouble he was of invincible courage, 
and boldly bore down all his enemies triumphantly. 
He was never inclined to war or trouble himself, 
but by the pride and insolence of his kin was divers 
times driven in trouble, whilk he bore through 
valiantly. He loved not to be in the laws contend- 
ing against any man, but loved rest and quietness 
with all his heart, and in time of peace he lived 
moderately and temperately in his dyet, and fully 
set to building and planting of all curious devices. 

* It is curious that of the author of so interesting a book as 
the " Memorials of the Troubles in Scotland and in England, 19 . 
nothing should be discovered beyond the bare fact that he was 
town clerk of Aberdeen. The garrulity of his narrative makes 
it extremely valuable. He was an arrant gossip— but a gossip 
whose private scandal related to murders and feuds, and whose 
public news recorded the greatest of civil wars. The Spalding 
Club, named in honour of him, have just worthily printed an 
amply annotated edition of his Memorials. 


A well set neighbour in his marches — disposed 
rather to give than to take a foot of ground wrong- 
ously. He was heard say he never drew sword in 
his own quarrel. In his youth a prodigal spender — 
in his old age more wise and worldly, yet never 
counted for cost in matters of honour. A great 
householder — a terror to his enemies, whom, with 
his prideful kin, he ever held under great fear, sub- 
jection, and obedience. In all his bargains just 
and efauld, and never hard for his true debt. He 
was mightily annoyed by the Kirk for his religion, 
and by others for his greatness, and had thereby 
much trouble. His master, King James, loved him 
dearly, and he was a good and loyal subject to him 
during the king's lifetime. But here at last in his 
latter days, by means of Frendraught, he is so per- 
secuted by the laws (which he aye studied to hold 
in due reverence), that he is compelled to travel 
without pity so often to Edinburgh, and now ends* 
his days out of his own house, without trial, of the 
woful fire of Frendraught — whilk doubtless was 
some help to his death also."* 

* Memorials, i., 73-4. 


The study of the witchcraft trials in Scotland* 
leaves behind it a frightful intelligence of what 
human nature may become. The impression made 
by these tough and sometimes drearily formal re- 
cords is more dark and dreadful than anything im- 
parted by fictitious writing. The difference is as 
great as all that lies between what has been and 
what might have been. True, these criminal re- 
cords, the* dreariest and most methodical of them, 
are full of fictions in the history attributed to the 
victims — full of fictions more revolting and im- 
probable than we can find in imaginative literature, 
since the charges against sorcerers and witches are 
frequently the productions of low, uncultivated, 
and brutal minds ; while the worst specimens of 
fictitious literature are illuminated by ,at least a 
faint light of civilisation and taste. But there is 



one element in these trials which does not partake 
of the character of the fictitious — which is altogether 
too true ; and this is the evil minds of the prosecu- 
tors. Evil minds which, if we look at the whole 
mass, are composed of heartless capriciousness— - of 
envy, hatred, and malice— of fanatical fury, and of 
mere brute cruelty, passing the conception of those 
who socially have lived in civilisation, and whose 
minds, when straying beyond the social circle, have 
lived in literature. It might be a question which 
were the worse fate, to be doomed to a belief in 
witchcraft, or to live in a country where it is be* 
lieved. Assuredly, no demons of the imagination 
can be much worse than the demons which super- 
stition has made of poor human beings. - 

Perhaps other nations can afford as evil a history 
to those who rummage among their criminal records. 
There are many sources of intelligence little known 
beyond the country to which they belong. We 
have few such means of examining the darker side 
of life in ancient nations as criminal trials afford. 
We only know of their historical crimes, or the 
accusations on which the great orators were engaged. 
If an imperfect Christianity could leave such horrid 
scenes to be looked back upon from a more ad- 
vanced civilisation, it is easy to believe that an 
abundance of horror must have been connected 


with the influence of demon deities, whose fondest 
worshippers believed them to possess passions and 
propensities, human in their kind, but as much 
more intense than those of men as the capacity of 
the immortal is beyond that of the mortal. We 
know not all that the human heart is capable of; 
perhaps it is well that we should not, and that the 
vices of past ages should diffuse themselves into 
oblivion as the material bodies of those who indulged 
in them have been mingled with the dust of the 
earth. On this remark it may be asked— why thpn 
endeavour to resuscitate the contents of this little 
graveyard corner — the witchcraft trials of Scotland? 
The answer is, that there is no intention on the 
present occasion of endeavouring to give a picture 
of the grosser brutalities. It would not be tole- 
rated in a work which the public in general are 
invited to peruse ; and it would be difficult to adapt 
the written language of the present day to such an 
object. Few readers will probably desire more 
than a general glance at some of the more curious 
and fanciful characteristics of the witch belief in 
Scotland. Those who desire more, must 'go to the 
original sources of information. 

And yet, vile as is the moral garbage thickening 
round the feet of one who wades through these 
sources of instruction, the self-sufficient selfishness 


of our nature might, perhaps, find a satisfaction in 
it — the satisfaction that we live under the protect* 
ing shadow of the experimental philosophy, which 
will not permit the tribunals to hold the crime we 
are accused of to be aggravated by being unseen 
and unknown ; by being incapable of discovery and 
proof, and by being totally inconsistent with the 
laws which are seen to govern the material world. 
If we were to take certain anarchists of science, whose 
motto appears to be credo quia impossibile, at their 
word, they would have these chaotic times back 
again. But, in truth, they would be as much 
frightened if they actually saw them, as a drawing* 
room republican at a besieged barricade. They 
disport themselves under the strong protection of 
advanced science. Inwardly, they know that the 
world will not retrograde ; that the onward steps of 
science are sure; and that they are perfectly safe 
from the realisation of their own doctrines. Hence, 
they are sometimes amusingly bold and clamorous; 
and their easy off-hand dealing with the super- 
natural is like the talk about storms and shipwrecks 
by the " gentlemen of England, who live at home 
at ease." To enlighten them on the life they would 
lead in a world sent back into the chaos of their pro- 
fessed opinions, let them read a series of trials for 


Our Scottish witch is a far more frightful being 
than her supernatural' coadjutor on the south 
side of the Tweed. She sometimes seems to rise 
from the proper sphere of the witch, who is only 
the slave, into that of the sorcerer, who is master of 
the demon. The English witch is the very perfec- 
tion of stupid vulgarity ; and among the most won- 
derful things in the whole history of diablery is 
this, that men of dignity and position, if not of 
learning — that important, country gentlemen, digni- 
fied clergy, judges, and privy councillors, should 
submit to the conviction that beings so contemptible 
and stupid could be objects of alarm to them, and 
be admitted to have some power or authority over 
their fate. One would have thought that the vil- 
lage hag, however humble her position and limited 
her views of life, would have had them widened in 
their destructivencss, when the prince of the power 
of the air selected them as the means of doing his 
work. But the old hag's fiendish machinations 
cannot go beyond the sphere of her early habits. 
She is a terrible enemy to pigs; sometimes inflicts 
convulsions on a turkey; possibly arises to the 
dignity of afflicting a cow with heavy sickness, or 
giving a horse the staggers. She can disturb the 
elements it is true, but they go no further in their 
wrath than the souring of the beer, or the destruo- 


tion of the butter. She is an inveterate slattern, 
managing with an infinite variety of offensive ope* 
rations to disturb the equanimity of the tidy, notable 
English housewife. Even Ben Jonson's stately blank 
verse cannot communicate dignity to her profes- 
sional occupations: 

" To make ewes cast their lambs— swine eat their farrow, 
The housewives' tun not work — nor the milk churn, 
Writhe children's wrists, and suck their breath in sleep, 
Get rials of their blood — and when the sea 
Casts up his slimy ooze, search for a weed 
To open locks with, and to rivet charms 
Planted about her in the wicked feat 
Of all her mischiefs, which are manifest." 

More picturesque were the spells of the Lady 
Fowlis, of the witches of Auldearn, and of that 
wild crew, who, after revelling with the devil in 
the church of North Berwick, ransacked the sur- 
rounding graves for necromantic charms, and then 
went to sea in sieves, with the foul fiend as signal- 
master to raise a storm for the destruction of the 
king as he came from Norway with his bride. 

But if the works of darkness have thus, afforded 
incidents more gloomily picturesque in our northern 
regions, neither the accusers nor the unhappy beings 
who arrogated to themselves, or were accused of 
supernatural powers, have any more merit in the 
picturesqueness of the adjuncts in which they move, 
than in creating the vast mountain-ranges, and 

vol. i. a 


stormy winds of their country. With one or two ex- 
ceptions, their ends are as base, and their means of 
accomplishing them as vulgar, as those of the de- 
stroyers of butter and enemies of pigs in the south; 
and we shall find that some of the Scottish charges 
are of as truly household and humble a charac- 
ter, though rendered somewhat more grotesque by 
northern peculiarities of language and habit. 

In a people so far behind their neighbours in 
domestic organisation, poor and hardy, inhabiting 
a country of mountains, torrents, and rocks, where 
cultivation was scanty, accustomed to gloomy mists 
and wild storms, every impression must necessarily 
assume a corresponding character. Superstitions, 
like funguses and vermin, are existences peculiar 
to the spot where they appear, and are governed by 
its physical accidents. In the well-lighted drawing- 
room, we have the latest fashionable quackery; in 
the churchyard or the ruined mansion, we have the 
pallid spectre; in the stormy mountains, the ghosts 
of a traditional gigantic race rise before the tired 
wanderer in misty masses. When the benighted tra- 
veller is intercepted by a torrent, struggling among 
rocks bored into black holes by the cataracts, he 
thinks he sees the water-kelpie leering from each 
cavern, as he seeks dubiously and nervously a point 
where he may venture to cross. On vast treacher- 


ous marshes, where the clanger to the belated wan- 
derer is not so obvious but is often more formidable, 
he is led on by the perfidious will-o'-the-wisp — a 
creature of the English fens, of whom no trace can 
be found among Scottish superstitions. As gentles 
swarm about the putrid flesh of the dead dog, and 
bugs inhabit decayed deal, and earwigs shelter them- 
selves behind the bark of rotting staves, so the super- 
stitions which arise out of intellectual putrescence 
vary with the conditions in which they appear — 
and thus it is, that the indications of witchcraft in 
Scotland are as different from those of the super- 
stition which in England receives the same name, 
as the Grampian Mountains from Shooter's Hill or 
Kennington Common*. 

Mr. Charles Knight, in his over-interesting and 
pleasant Commentaries on Shakspeare, endeavours 
to show that the machinery of the witchcraft scenes 
in Macbeth must have been found in a journey 
through Scotland; and, unable to discover any ordi- 
nary traveller's traces of Shakspeare having been 
there, tries to prove it by internal evidence from 
the tragedy. Thus he thought he could make out 
that the witches in Macbeth are Scottish, not Eng- 
lish. From the home market they certainly are 
not ; Shakspeare was far too great an artist to make 
the domestic nuisance called a witch in the neigh- 


bourhood of Stratford-on-Avon, a material worker 
in the ancient revolutions and tragic events of a 
kingdom, supposed by all ordinary readers of history 
to have been ruled by a line of Oriental monarchs, 
who had passed northward from the palaces of their 
lathers, the Egyptian Pharaohs, several hundreds of 
years before the birth of Christ. Shakspeare would 
as readily have made Cassius an alderman, or Mark 
Antony the right honourable gentleman, or have 
given Cleopatra a starched ruff, — as have set Eng- 
lish witches on the blasted heath. In fact, with 
the despotism of genius, he suited matters to his will. 
The witches in Macbeth are neither Scots nor Eng- 
lish, nor are they beings of any other country — they 
evidently embody whatever was picturesque, pow- 
erful, and worthy of artistic admiration in all the 
witch lore that he had read. They partake as much 
of the Parcae of the Greeks and the Choosers of the 
slain of the Nora mythology, as they do of any 
superstition alive in later ages. 

" If you can look into the seeds of time, 
And say which grain will grow and which will not," 

looks more like a classical than a northern repre- 
sentation. And again : 

" Though ye untie the winds and make them war 
Against the steeples— though the yeasty waves 
Confound and swallow navigation up," 

might be readily enough suggested by the Scottish 


witchcraft scenes. Nothing about them, however, 
was at that time to be found in literature, and it is 
drawing too distant a conclusion to maintain from 
such coincidents that Shakspeare must have wan- 
dered in Scotland, and, mixing with the peasantry, 
have learned their superstitions, when there were 
other more obvious sources whence he might have 
drawn his materials. Olaus Magnus, whose pages are 
rife with elementary wrath, and all that the hardy 
Norsemen endure in sea-storms, pathless glaciers, 
and the cold and darkness of the northern winters, 
amply delivers himself on the power exercised by 
witches and the other servants of Satan over this 
dread enginery. The little Latin of the dramatic 
sage would be enough to let him into the Bishop of 
Upsala's history of wonders; and the same mate- 
rials may be traced to many other sources — in a 
great measure, even to the Latin poets, in whose 
phraseology the bishop in some measure invests his 

It is not proposed on this occasion to offer a com- 
plete account of the trials for witchcraft in Scotland. 
Even if omitting the very offensive portions already 
alluded to, it would not perhaps be welcome to the 
ordinary reader. Along with much dull, dreary 
nonsense, he would have perhaps to complain of 
matter which he had already seen in popular litera- 


ture, being reiterated on him. It may not, however, be 
uninteresting to those who do not peruse the Scot- 
tish criminal records in their native form, to read 
a few selected characteristic extracts from them, no 
further differing from the original record than in 
the modernising of the spelling. Some trials which 
took place in Aberdeen in the year 1597, may be 
counted a fair enough specimen of this class of 
documents. A commission was in that year granted 
by the king in council to the provost and bailies of 
Aberdeen for the trial of Janet Wishart, spouse to 
John Leys S tabular, in Aberdeen; John Leys, her 
son, Isobel Cockie, in Kintore, and other persons, 
suspected of " witchcraft, sorcery, and other devil- 
ish and detestable practices.' 1 * The fate of the ac- 
cused persons was deemed a matter of small im- 
portance, otherwise the trial would not have been 
left in the hands of these respectable magistrates — 
but the accusations are not thence the less charac- 
teristic. A few extracts from them follow. The 
time of the first charge is day dawn, or " the greik- 
ing of the day." Then did Janet Wishart meet a 
mariner intending to go on board his vessel, in this 

" Thou the said Janet Wishart returning from 
the blockhouse and Futtie, where thou had been 
* Miscellany of the Spalding Club, i, 84 ef «?. 


consultant! with the devil, thou pursuing Alex- 
ander Thomson, mariner, coming forth of Aber- 
deen to his ship, ran betwixt him and Alexander 
Fidler's door under the Castle-hill, as swift, as 
appeared to him, as ane arrow could be shot forth 
of a bow — going betwixt him and the sun then 
cast thy cantrips* in his way. At the whilk mo- 
ment the said Alexander took an extreme fear and 
trembling, where through he was forced to return 
home unpassed to his ship, took bed, and lay by 
the space of ane month fast bedsick, so that nane 
believed his life ; the ane half of the day rosten in 
his body as if he had been rosten in an oven with 
an extreme burnen drought so that he could never 
be satisfied of drink ; the other half of the day 
melting away his body with an extraordinar cold 
sweat And the said Alexander Thomson, know- 
ing that thou had casten this kind of witchcraft on 
him, send to thee his own wife with Catherine 
Crawford, sharply boasting and threatening thee, 
that unless thou incontinently remedied him then, 
that he would cause burn thee — thou sent with the 
said Alexander's wife and the said Catherine Craw- 

* This word puzzles the philologists. Dr. Jameson, in his 
Scottish dictionary, says: "I have sometimes been disposed 
to think that it might he a sea term, or one borrowed from 
gipsy language, from cant, to throw or cast, or turn over, 
and raup, or rope, as alluding, perhaps, to the tricks of jug- 


ford certain beer and other thy drugs to drink — 
after the whilk reproof and receipt of thy drugs, 
the said Alexander daily mended, and returned 
again to his wonted health." 

Certain scholars or students see the witch coming 
out of Adam Mair's grain-field at two o'clock of 
the morning, whereon they give information to his 
wife of the suspicious event: 

" And thou then instantly being revealed to the 
wife of the said Adam, thou in thy fury answered 
and said to the said scholars, * Well have ye schemed 
me — I shall gar the best of you repent,' and ere 
four afternoon that thou should gar as many wonder 
at them as should see them. Upon the same day, 
betwixt two and three hours afternoon, the said 
scholars passed to the old watergang in the links to 
wash them, and after they had once washen them- 
selves and dried again, the said John Leslie and 
Johnston took a rink or race beside the water- 
gang, and most desperately, through thy witchcraft 
casten on them, ran in the midds of the water- 
gang and drowned themselves — and thereby, thou, 
as thou promised, murdered them." 

" Item, these twenty years last by-past, thou con- 
tinually, and nightly upon the night, after eleven 
hours at even, while as thy husband and servants 
pass to their bed and take rest, then thoti puts on 
nightly ane great fire, holds the same on the haill 


night, and sits thereat thyself using thy witchcraft 
— altogether contrarious to the nature of well-living 
persons. And such nights as thou puts naut on 
fire, then thou gangs out of thy ane house — remains 
therefrom the haill night where thou pleases." 

" Item, thou and thy daughter, Violet Leys, 
desired thy woman to gang with thy daughter at 
twelve hours at even to the gallows, and cut down 
the dead man hanging thereon, and take a part of 
all his members from him, and burn the dead corps 
— whilk thy servant would not do, and therefore 
then instantly thou put her away." 

" Item, nine years since or thereby, Kelman, 
wife to John Taylor, then being in thy service in 
time of harvest, gangen to Gordon's mills to grind 
corn to the hooks with thee, a part being ground 
in the night, thou and she returning after midnight, 
passed out of the common way, passing through 
the links, the gate to the gallows, whereat the 
woman was greatly afraid and refused to gang — 
yet thou urged her nought to fear in thy company, 
so that she was forced to come forward where thou 
brought her to the gallows, and show her that thou 
would learn her ane lesson whilk would do her 
good all her days — and ane dead man being hang- 
ing there bade her hold his foot, while she cutted 
off a part of all his members— whereat the woman 
was stricken with such fear, fell dead, and refused to 


meddle with such thing. Whereupon, thou for- 
cibly straited her by her oath never to reveal, or 
else thou would instantly gar her die." 

The following items bear on the witches' com* 
mand over the elements: 

" Within these two years certain honest women 
within this burgh, with Andrew Rait mariner's 
wife, came to thee to buy malt, to whom thou 
answered that thou had nane winnowed, but 
desired them to remain and they should have — in- 
continent. Who answered thee that there was no 
wind to winnow any malt, and thou said thou 
should get wind enough to do thy turn. Imme- 
diately thereafter thou took ane coal of fire, and 
divided it, the one half thou put in the one door 
and the other half in the other, and said thy ori- 
sons thereon. Thereafter there came wind enough 
in at thy doors, whereas there was none in the 

" Thou art indicted and accused for practising 
of thy witchcraft in laying of the wind and making 
of it to become calm and louden, a special point 
teached to thee by thy master Satan, whilk thou 
did in this form: taking of ane beatle in the craig 

* There was for some time a superstitious prejudice in Scot- 
land against winnowmg-machin&, as a presumptuous inter- 
ference with the elements — but superstitions do not hold out 
long in the north against palpable and profitable improve- 


toun of Lunfanan,* and hanging up of the beatle 
by ane string or thread, and whispering thereon thy 
devilish orisons by a certain space, through the 
whilk thy devilish witchcraft so used by thee, the 
wind — that blew loud, the whilk no man for the 
greatness and vehemency thereof could hold his 
feet upon the ground — became calm and low." 

The charge of bringing on a sickness by witch 
cantrips is frequently repeated almost in the terms 
already cited. Intervals of burning heat and icy 

* This was a tolerably well-selected place for witchcraft 
machinations with the elements, from its connexion with the 
fate of Macbeth. But if Shakspeare had known of the his- 
tory of this laying of the storm, it might have come accompa- 
nied with historical intelligence Undermining the chief events 
of his tragedy. There are few things about Macbeth, except 
indeed his connexion with this remote spot, which are not very 
vague and dubious. It is questioned if he was a Yery good or 
a yery bad man. It is questioned if he murdered Duncan, or 
if in his person he slew the usurper of his wife's throne in open 
battle. There is Hfctle doubt, however, that death overtook him 
at Lunfanan. All the older chroniclers state it distinctly, and 
it is a remote unknown spot, unlike the conspicuous places 
with which tradition generally associates strange stories of the 
death of kings. Wyntoun, in his vernacular, gives all the 
stages of the chase across the Grampians, and then 
" This Macbeth slewe thai than 
Into the wode of Lunfanan 
And his hewyd thai struk off there/' 

To this day, on a bleak mountain-side in that remote district, 
a grey heap of stones is known by the name of Cairn Beth, 
a name preserved without reference to any tradition about the 
monarch's fate: throughout Scotland, tradition has followed 
Shakspeare by making his death take place at Dunsinane. 


coldness, or their coexistence, in different parts of 
the body, are among the perpetually-recurring fea- 
tures. The patient is said sometimes to decline 
like a lighted white candle, and an intolerable 
thirst or " drouth," not to be slaked by any amount 
of any kind of liquor, is an almost invariable fea- 
ture. The charges then pass for a long way through 
very sublunary and material matters, such as the 
destruction of brewsts of ale, or the bewitching of 
clothes with an element of decay, which makes 
them wear out long before the owner had calculated 
on the necessity of renewing his garments, and 
sensibly affects his temper. One long charge relates 
to a leg of roast mutton, whence the witches dug 
out handfuls of flesh, distributing the same with 
baleful and deadly influences. Suddenly the charges 
which are of the earth earthy, take a turn to the 
wild aerial diablery which will be found in the fol- 
lowing fragments: 

" Thou confesses that the devil thy master, whom 
thou terms Christsunday, and supposes to be an 
angel and God's godson — albeit he has a thraw by 
God, and sways to the Queen of Elphin* — is raised 

* In the Record "hes a thraw by God and swyis to the 
Qaeen of Elphen." It may be put thus, with a great dimi- 
nution in the power of the expression— he has a tendency 
against the Almighty and towards the Queen of Elphin. The 
extreme irreverence as well as logical absurdity of such a form 
of accusation are sufficiently obvious. 


by the speaking of the word Benedicite, and is laid 
again by taking of a dog under thy left oxter 
(shoulder) in the right hand, and casting the same 
in his mouth, and speaking the word Maikpebtis, (?) 
and that Christsunday bit a mark in the third finger 
of thy right hand, whilk thou has yet to show. 
Suchlike thou affirms that the Queen of Elphin has a 
grip of all the craft, but Christsunday is the good- 
man, and has all power under God, and that thou 
kerjs sundry dead men in their company, and that 
the king that died at Floden and Thomas Rymour 
-is there."* 

* The fate of James IV. and the battle of Floden were then 
a history of only fifty-five years old ; but the superstition among 
the common people, of the Scottish monarch wandering in elf- 
land, shows how much the catastrophe of Floden was considered 
a national calamity, and how affectionately the warrior-monarch 
was remembered, even in the remotest parts of the Scottish 
Lowlands. The reference to Thomas Rymour, or Thomas of 
Erceldoun, might seem far more remarkable to persons not. ac- 
quainted with the traditions of the North, since it refers to a 
person whose traditionary fame must have been a matter of 
greater antiquity at the period of the battle of Floden than the 
battle of Floden is to us of the nineteenth century. But the 
fame of the prophet-poet seems to have been ever strongest in 
Aberdeenshire, some 200 miles from the Border district, with 
which all that is known of his history is associated. Thomas 
was, however, one of those beings whose names seem to be syl- 
labled by airy tongues, and who, like the Sacroboscos, Erigenas, 
and Duns Scotuses, are claimed by many countries. Wide, 
however, as the popularity of his name has been, the Bymer 
seems to have been always considered a Scot. Conrad Gesner 
says in his "Bibliotheca," some forty years before these Aber- 


" Item, upon the rood-day in harvest, in this pre- 
sent year, whilk fell on a Wednesday, thou confesses 
and affirms thou saw Christsunday come out of the 
snow in likeness of 3 stag, and that the Queen of 
Elphin was there and others with her, ryding upon 
white hacknies, and they came to the Binhill and 
Binlocht, where they use commonly to convene, 
and that all they who convenes with them, kisses 
Christsunday and the Queen of Elphin, &c, as 
thou did thy sel£ and if thou got leave to have 
keeped the convention on All-Hallow even last was* 
thou would have told of all them that should have 
been there in company with them." 

" Item, thou affirms that the elves have shapes 
and clothes like men, and that they will have fair 
covered tables, and that they are but shadows, but 
are starker* nor men, and that they have playing 

deen trials, " Thomas Leirmont, vel Ersiletonus, natione Scotus, 
editit Ehythmica quaedum, et ob id Ehythmicus apud Anglos 

* Stronger. Stark is still used north of the Grampians. It is 
one of many north-eastern terms, which, while unknown in the 
south, are not only traceable to a Teutonic continental root, but 
are identically the same with words used in Germany. la 
Aberdeenshire there ' are many terms obsolete in "Enfljajntd, and 
even in the south of Scotland, which are to be found in use in 
Germany, but a still greater number which are in familiar use in 
Low Dutch. It would be a curious piece of philological work to 
find out how many of them, if any, are Anglo-Saxon, deserted by 
England and southern Scotland. It is a curious enough inci- 


and dancing when they please — and also that the 
queen is very pleasant and will be old and young 
when she pleases." 

" Item, thou affirms that thou can take away a 
cow's milk when thou pleases, and thou promised 
to Alexander Simpson to do the same." 

" Item, thou grants and affirms that the fruit of 
the corns is taken away by stripping of the crops of 
the straw, and casting it among the rest of the corn, 
by saying these words: ' The dirt to thee, and the 
crops to me,' nine sundry times — and if the plough- 
irons be dipped in lax water the oxen will not run 

"Item, that at the day of judgment, the fire 
will burn the water and the earth and make all 
plain, and that Christsunday will be casten in the 
fire because he deceives worldlings men. And this 
year to come shall be a dear year ; and that there 
shall be twice seven good years thereafter. And 
this intelligence thou had from Christsunday thy 
master, whilk is plain witchcraft and devilry. 
Like as thou affirms and allows plainly — if thou 
look at a man's hand thou shall tell him what ane 
wife he shall get," 

dental circumstance, that though a thoroughly northern term 
occasionally occurs in these records of witchcraft trials, yet the 
language of the record is on the whole less peculiarly Scottish 
than the parliamentary privy council and other metropolitan 
records of the same period. 


" Item, thou grants the elves will make thee 
appear to be in a fair chamber — and yet thou shall 
find thyself in a moss in the morn; and that they 
will appear to have candles, and light, and swords, 
whilk will be nothing else but dead grass and straw 
— amongst whom thou art not afraid to gang, as 
thou frequently all thy day has used their company 
and society." 

" Item, thou bidds lay the harrows on the land 
before the corn be brought forth, and hold off the 
crows until ane ridge be broken — for the crows are 
witrif (very cunning) beasts; and the devil will 
come in their likeness; and bidds say an oration — 
whilk thou has perqueir — nine sundry times, and 
that being done, the corns shall come safe to the 
barn that year. Suchlike, thou affirms the crows 
will bring a stone from one country to another to 
gar their birds deck — whilk intelligence thou has 
of Christsunday, and is plain devilry and witchcraft 
— whilk thou can nought deny." 

" Item, thou affirms that at the day of judgment 
Christsunday will be notary to accuse every man, 
and ilk man will have his own dittay* written 
in his own book to accuse himself, and also that the 
godly will be severed from the wicked, whilk was 
revealed to thee by the devil thy master." 

* The -equivalent, in the Scottish vernacular, of indictment* 
as a derivative from vndictamenta* 


Though these reckless fancies do sometimes touch 
the border of poetry, there would certainly not 
be found enough of imagination in them to make 
them worth reading or thinking of, were it not 
that they were the substantial accusations raised 
against human beings, on which they were, in this 
country of well-administered justice, accused, tried 
with or without torture, condemned to death, and 
burned in a large fire fed with fagots and tar. In 
the perusal of these documents, it can hardly fail to 
be noticed how utterly repulsive the very terms of 
the accusations are to the spirit of Christianity. 
This may be counted a vague term; and it is more 
distinct to say that the official persons who drew 
out these charges, had little notion of the doctrines 
of Christianity as they are now followed, in an age 
whose greater civilisation is the companion of its 
higher development of religion. The thorough mis- 
understanding of the Christian doctrines in these 
charges — and the same thing is abundantly apparent 
in others — is a matter that must be left to the 
reader's judgment. The doctrinal discussion of it 
would not be appropriate to such an occasion as 
this, nor would it be adapted to the writer's know- 
ledge or pursuits. The general antagonism, how- 
ever, to Christianity, as it is now generally believed 
in, of the whole scheme of a belief in witchcraft, 

VOL. I. 8 


and of course of all the accusations in which it is 
embodied, forms an important matter in viewB 
historical and soda], which even people not versed 
in theological learning are entitled to take up. It 
might be the more satifactory for laymen to discuss 
it, but there are few ecclesiastical bodies of long 
standing, the predecessors of which have not em- 
brewed their hands in blood in the pursuit of the 
old barbarous and unchristian notions on witch- 
craft and other superstitions. Churches do not like 
to find failings in their ancient foundations ; and 
theologians will not readily endeavour to prove that 
those whom they represent by apostolic descent, or 
otherwise* were bad Christians. There can be no 
-doubt, however, to the ordinary critical reader of 
witch trials; that all the belief on which they pro- 
ceeded is characteristic rather of the creed of Zoro- 
aster, or of those who made human deities endowed 
with more or less of human wickedness and weak- 
ness, than of the religion of the New Testament. In 
fact, it probably would not be difficult to show 
historically that the wbole of this class of super- 
stitions is a remnant of heathenism, running like a 
disturbing vein into Christianity. Its occasional 
identification with classical and northern super- 
stitions has been noticed already, and may receive 
further attention as we go on. The classical eo- 


incidences, however, are the mere forms in which 
the clergy and the lawyers dressed their narratives. 
The heathen worship and superstitions of the 
northern nations were still practically alive in the 
witch revels or Sabbaths, which have descended 
from the customs of Valhalla, and are told nearly in 
the same terms by Olans Magnus, and by the con- 
coctors of the Aberdeen indictments. 

With these casual comments to draw attention 
to the peculiar character of the charges, a few more 
extracts from these singular accusations are offered: 

11 Thou art indicted and accused for being with 
Janet Wood, goodwife, of Ktmurchie, in winter last 
past, in her house of Pitmurchie, she and her hus- 
band lying in ane chamber, and thou lying in the 
same chamber in ane bed — none being in the house 
but the three; the devil thy master came to thee, 
and then by his instigation and thy enchantment, 
the goodwife being lying sick, the parpan wall of 
the house shook and trembled and made such ane 
din and noise as the same had been hailely fallen, 
and there-through the goodwife and the goodman 
was so afraid they could nought be contained within 
their beds for fear and dread that the wall should 
fall on them — albeit, there fell not ane stone 
thereof. And this thou did, being enspired by thy 
master as said is — and this thou confessed the shaking 


and tumbling of the wall, alleging only it was dogs 
•and cats that ran on the wall." 

" Item, at this same night that the wall trembled 
and shook by thy devilish enchantments, the devil 
thy master appeared to thee in the said goodwife of 
Pitmurchie's chamber, where the goodman himself 
-was lying, in the form of ane four-footed beast, and 
specially like ane futret, and sometime like ane cat, 
and ran about the said goodman of Pitmurchie's 
bed-clothes where he was lying, whereby he was so 
terrified that he cried, and thou speired at him what 
moved or troubled him — and he answered thee again, 
4 1 trow the deil is in this house for I can nought 
lie in my bed for fear/ and he incontinently rose, 
lighted ane candle to see if there were any cat, dog, 
futret, or other four-footed beast about the house-— 
who finding the doors and windows all fast could 
see nothing. To whom thou answered and said 
then again, * Goodman, be godlie; if ye have tane 
any man's geer, restore the same again, and then 
the devil will nought appear.' " 

This injunction was supposed to be a solemn 
mockery of the scriptural exhortations to penitence 
and the functions of the clergy. The tormenting 
of their victims by the presence of animals, we shall 
find to be among the most ordinary of the witch 
impeachments. Its phenomena are among the 


most easily resolvable by ordinary natural agency, 
in the habits of the animals, — domestic, such as cats, 
or wild, such as rats, — which frequent houses; and, 
what cannot thus be accounted for, maybe resolved 
by the phenomena of dyspeptic dreams. The fol- 
lowing act of vengeance is also characteristic of the 
ordinary accusations against these poor wretches: 

"In June last or thereby, thou being entering 
into the kirkyard of Kincardine, gangen in at the 
kirk door thereof, umwhile Alexander Burnet, son 
to James Burnet in Larguie, ane young able man, 
meeting thee, and seeing that thou was going to 
offer thyself to bide ane trial for witchcraft, he 
knowing by open voice and common fame that thou 
wast ane witch, said merrily to thee, ' Get fire to 
the witch carting/ Then thou answered the said 
Alexander, being instructed at the present by thy 
master Satan, * Thou shall be first drowned ere I 
be burned;' and true it is that then thy dittay being 
obscured* by the reason aforesaid, continually from 
that forth, the said Alexander being in his flower,f 
and coming but to his ability, by thy witchcraft 
and sorcery then casten on him, never ceased till 

* Dittay obscwredr— indictment hidden. One of the charges 
against this woman— which can scarcely be called a super- 
natural one— was bribing the clerks of court with ten merks to 
" obscure and extract the dittay." 

t The flower of his age. 


that he riding in company with the Laird of Muchab 
and divers other gentlemen, in the water of Don, 
to wash their horses in ane hot summer's day, the 
said Alexander drowned, and the rest was safe — 
and so that inspiration whilk thou had of thy 
master the devil came verily and truly to pass and 
took effect, in that he first drowned before thou 
was burnt for thy witchcraft. And to verify this 
to be true, ere ever any ward came to Lunfanan, 
where thou dwell, of the drowning of the said 
Alexander Burnet, or ever any man or woman in 
these parts knew or heard thereof, thou passed to 
Kincragie, and said to the goodman, goodwife, and 
their family, " I have gotten my heart's desire and 
wish upon one— that is Alexander Burnet, who is 
drowned before I be burned.' " 

The next series of extracts in which we shall in- 
dulge are by no means of so homely and natural a 
cast, but bring us again into the darker recesses of 
Satan's peculiar dominion: 

" Thou art indicted and accused for being in. 
company and society with thy master the devil, of 
whom thou learned all thy sorcery, at ane dance, 
where there was with thee eight other persons at 
ane grey stane at the foot of the hill of Craigleuche, 
where thou and they was under the conduct of thy 
master the devil, dancing in ane ring, and he play- 


ing melodiously upon ane instrument, albeit invi- 
sible to you," &c 

44 Upon All-hallow even last by-past, at twelve 
hours in the night, or thereby, thou comes to the 
fish-cross of this burgh, under the conduct of Satan 
thy master, playing before thee on his form of in- 
struments — and there in company with thy devilish 
companions and faction transformed in other like- 
ness — some in hares, some in cats, and some in other 
similitudes, ye all danced about the fish-cross and 
meal-market for a long space. Of the whilk dance, 
umwhile William Leys was ringleader, whilk he 
confessed himself before his death — and that thou 
wm ane of the number." 

The passages that follow begin charges of the 
same character, but the scene gradually shifts to 
superstitions of another class: 

" Thou confessed that the devil thy master, 
whom thou terms Christsunday, caused thee dance 
sundry times with him, and with our lady — who, 
as thou says, was a fine woman clad in- a white 
walicot, and sundry others of Christsunday's ser- 
vants with thee, whose names thou knows not, and 
that the devil played on his form of instruments 
veiy pleasantly unto you." 

" Item, thou confessed that thou can charm a 
sword in such sort, that the owner thereof shall not 


get his blood drawn, nor reap any skaith so. long as 
he has that sword — whilk charm, as thou confessed, 
is after this form: To cause the man that owns the 
sword, take it naked in his right hand and kiss the 
guard thereof, and then make three crosses in the 
gait therewith, in the name of the Father, Son, and 
Holy Ghost — and Christsunday. And this lesson 
thou confesses thou learned of thy master Christ- 

" Item, thou confessed that thou bade William 
Innes of Edingeith, take the cross of a rowan tree, 
and put on his right shoulder and turn him thrice 
about, and beseech him to the Father, Son, and 
Holy Ghost, and Christsunday — and no evil would 
dare upon him." 

" Item, thou confessed that thou could help sick 
cattle by saying an oration to them, whilk thou 
repeated this day in the kirk, wherein there was a 
part in these words: 'Nine times God swarbed 
between me and them,' and by casting south 
running water on them, in the name of the Father, 
Son, and Holy Ghost, and Christsunday, whereby 
thou would recover their sickness." 

" Item, thou confessed thou washed James Cheyne 
in Pein, twenty days since, or thereby, with south 
running water in his own house, and caused his 
own hire-woman bring in the water unspoken, and 


when lie was washen therewith, thou caused the 
spid woman cast it in the same place where she took 
ij; out, and bade her keep the same from the cattle." 

" Item, on Sunday last thou confessed the devil 
thy master, whpm thou calls Christsunday, came to 
thee in the house of the said James Cheyne, about 
twelve hours of the night, in the likeness of a black 
stag, and bade thee be his servant, with whom thou 
consulted a long space" 

" Item, thou confessed, in presence of Mr. Thomas 
Leslie, sheriff depute, and sundry others, that the 
devil appeared to thee within these eighteen days 
or thereby, whom thou calls thy God, within the 
said James Cheyne's pantry, about one hour in the 
night, and appeared to thee in ane great man's 
likeness with silken habiliments, with ane white 
candle in his hand, and then gave thee thy injunc- 
tions to use thy devilish practices and services." 

Such are a few of the more remarkable incidents 
and characteristics selected out of a very large mass 
of matter. Besides the portions which have been 
deemed curious enough to be set down as they are 
found in the original documents, a minute investi- 
gator might find embedded in uninteresting verbiage 
or tedious details, little incidental matters which are 
curious, and might be important to psychological 
inquirers, but are not sufficiently continuous and 


distinct to be interesting in a work chiefly of a 
narrative character like the present. Classification 
and arrangement do not readily apply to matter* 
of so vagrant a character as deposed superstitions. 
They are not, like an accepted science, where the 
dropping of an insignificant portion, like breaking 
a wheel of a watch, disturbs the whole economy; 
they are rather like a mountain landscape, where 
we desire the lights and shadows, the srlarkle of the 
waters, the green of the forests, and the general 
hue and character of nature as it is there to be 
found. Still, in the same arena there are other 
workers — geologists investigating the strata; bota- 
nists, agricultural chemists, trigonometrical sur- 
veyors, and so forth. The field opened up by these 
extracts does not seem promising, but to inquirers 
into psychological and even physiological matters, 
these trials for witchcraft, occupying upwards of m 
hundred very closely-printed quarto pages, may 
afford valuable raw material. 

Before leaving these curious records, however, it 
k scarcely more than fair to the reputation of the 
whole system of witch-belief, which in the extracts 
hitherto indulged in has a wildly capricious, fantas- 
tic, and malicious character, to quote one passage, 
illustrative of those neighbourly services which seem 
sometimes to have been either begged or bought 


from these witches, and sometimes to have been 
exacted by harsh threats of denunciation and 
punishment. We have here the method of reclaim- 
ing a bewitched mill; and it may be important to 
those who consider such objects as matter of scientific 
inquiry, instead of general curiosity, to find a case 
in point, showing that when one witch lays on a 
spell, it is necessary to have the services of another 
for its removal; just as a miller of the present day, 
having found that a lawyer, by some mystical process 
full of hard and incomprehensible words, had stopped 
his mill and laid an embargo on his property, finds 
that he must employ another lawyer for the removal 
of these insidious restraints or spells. Christian 
Reid is indicted as a notorious witch and sorcerer: 
" Thou came to Walter Innes, miller, at the mill of 
Federet, he being standing at the said mill, and said 
to him, 4 Ye are bewitched, and your mill also, and 
if you will give me any geer, I will get you remedy 
both for thee and for the other. And as to your 
mill, if you satisfy me, I shall get her remedied 
presently at home ; but as to yourself, yon man gang 
forty miles ere you get your own health.' And the 
said Walter Innes answered thee, ' I care not so 
much for my own disease as I care for my mill; 
and if thou presently will remeid my mill, I will 
recompense thee therefor/ And this thou canst 


nought deny, for thou hast confessed this point 
already in the kirk of this burgh, before the provost, 
ministry, and divers others. 

" Item, thou art indicted as a manifest witch and 
sorcerer, in so far that in the month of March last 
by-past, fourteen days or thereby before pasche last, 
after thou had spoken in this form with the said 
Walter Innes, thou passed to one Catherine Gerard, 
spouse to Crawford in Ironside, and daughter to 
one Hellie Pennie, that was burnt for witchcraft 
before in Slains; who, as thou alleged, desired 
thee to speak the forementioned words to the said 
Walter, and said to the said Catherine, * I have 
spoken with Watt Innes, who says he will give 
some of his geer to remeid his mill;' and the said 
Catherine answered thee, ' Well then, if so be ye 
must do a little thing for me at this time — and I 
will do as meikle for you again — whilk is this: Te 
shall gang to the mill of Federet, and take up a 
little sand at the west cheek of the north door of 
the said mill, and cast the same upon the stones and 
wheels, in the name of God and Christsunday, and 
then the mill shall be in the old manner.' And 
upon this, thou immediately thereafter, at the di- 
rection of the said Catherine, passed to the said mill 
and did as aforesaid; and then the said mill, whilk 
of before, by thy witchcraft, and by the witchcraft 


and devilry of the said Catherine, was unable to 
gang, and the wheels whereof could not be put 
about by eight men, ground after her old form, and 
made good meal and sheeling. 

" Item, &c., thou confesses, thyself, that albeit 
Catherine Gerard cast on the witchcraft on the mill, 
she could not take it off herself, but it behoved 
another witch to take it off, for she could nought 
take off the witchcraft which she cast on. And 
therefore, seeing thou took off that devilry and in- 
chantment off that mill by thy devilry and witch- 
craft, thou canst nought be clensit from witchcraft, 
for none can take it off but witches." 

Should these incoherences — some of them so wild 
and demoniacal, others so homely — seem to the 
reader a semi-jocular narrative, that never can have 
been connected with serious results, there is a black 
account in the records of the receipt and expenditure 
of the funds of the good city of Aberdeen, telling 
another tale. The clerk makes up a* statement of 
" the disbursements made by the compter, at com* 
mand and by notice of the ordnance of the provost, 
bailies, and council, in the burning and sustentation 
of the witches." Putting the sustentation after the 
burning is not logical, but it is evident that the 
civic officer did not put himself to the trouble of 
reflecting that the one expense naturally preceded 


the other. Among the earliest of the items is one 
that mighty one would think, have even made a 
civic dignitary shudder — at all events, it would not 
make its appearance at die present day in an account- 
book, in terms so repulsively expressive. A sum of 
ten shillings is charged " for trailing of Monteith 
through the streets of the town in ane cart (who 
hanged herself in prison), and for cart hire and 
eirdiiig of her (earthing or burying her)." 

To the account of Janet Wishart and Isabel 
Cockie, there are set forth the following significant 

For twenty loads of pests, to born them . 40 

For onebollof coalls 23 

For four tar-barrels 26 6 

Tor fire and iron tomb 16 8 

For a stalk and dressing of it . . . 16 
For four fathom of tows (ropes) . ..40 

For carrying the peats, coals, andbarreb to Hie mil 13 4 

To John Justice, for their execution . . . 13 4 

The Dean of Guild of the town gained for him- 
self golden opinions from his fellow-citizens, and 
was voted a pecuniary reward for his affectionate 
attention to their interests, in ridding them of 
witches. It was the function of this important 
officer, like the Edile of the Romans, to look after 
the public edifices, and protect &e citizens from 
injury by ruinous buildings. As a clerk of works 
would deem that he did service in the present day 


by ridding the establishment under his management 
of tugs or rate, so it seems to have* been deemed 
an act of zealous official duty, and good neighbour- 
ship, in the inspector of streets and public buildings 
to look after the burning of the witches. Hence, on 
the 21et of September, 1597, the provost, bailies, 
and council, considering the faithfulness shown by 
William Dun, the Dean of Guild, in the discharge 
of his duty, " and, besides this, his extraordinarily 
taking pains in the burning of the great number of 
the witches burnt this year, and on the four prates, 
and bigging of the port upon the brig of Dee, re- 
pairing of the Gney Friars Kirk and steeple thereof, 
and thereby has been abstracted from his trade of 
merchandise continually since he was elected to 
the said office" — he is allowed a gratuity of forty- 
seven pounds out of the penalties levied cm those 
who catch salmon out of season.* 

Among the expenses of the occasion was that of 
building a palisade to keep off the crowd who 
thronged to "the great number of the witches 
burnt this year," and the account intimates that it 
was broken down through the eager pressure of the 
mob. In the good old times, such holocausts oc- 
curred at intervals like storms or inundations. When 

* Editor'* Preface to Miscellany of the Spalding Club, 


the moral tempest of hatred and bigot ferocity was 
sweeping by, then was the time for all who had 
some old wrong to avenge, or who had been 
nourishing in their bosoms some well-matured 
hatred, to seize the opportunity and strike theft: 
enemies ; then was the time for the strong, the 
fierce, and the unscrupulous, to triumph in the 
bloody struggle, and the weak to be trodden in the 
earth. And, in such a conflict of utter selfish 
ferocity, unlighted by any ray of generosity, 
chivalry, heroism, or even mercy, it is not surpris- 
ing that we should find, when we analyse the fate 
of the stragglers, that men strong in person, in skill, 
and in social condition, should be the victors, and 
that aged women should be the victims. 

These matters happened, as we have seen, in 
Aberdeenshire, just at the close of the sixteenth 
century. Sixty-four years later, there was another 
and similar outbreak in the parish of Auldearn, in 
the neighbouring county of Nairn. The documents 
which we possess relating to the Aberdeen cases 
are chiefly the accusations — those which relate to 
the Auldearn witches are singularly enough their 
confessions — a fact, the import of which will have 
to be afterwards noticed. There is a remarkable 
similarity to each other in these sets of instances; 
but the Auldearn witches were, as we shall find, 


the more heteroclite of the two, and they had 
far greater lyrical capacities, indulging themselves 
abundantly in poetry and song.* According to the 
method adopted with their predecessors, some cha- 
racteristic fragments from these lengthy statements 
are here strung together. In the present instance* 
the impression thus derived of the original will not 
be a very false one, as it is in many places frag- 
mentary and imperfect. These women then confess* 
in the presence of the sheriff of the county, the 
clergyman of the parish, and a worshipful assembly 
of country gentlemen, such things as these : 

" As I was going betwixt the towns of Drum- 
duin and the heads, I met the devil, and there 
covenanted in a manner with him; and I promised 
to meet him in the night-time in the kirk of Aul- 
dearn, whilk I did. And the first thing I did there 
that night, I denied my baptism, and did put the 
one of my hands to the crown of my head and the 
other to the sole of my foot, and then renounced all, 
betwixt my two hands, over to the devil. He was 
in the reader's desk, and a black book in his hand. 

* The Confessions of the Auldearn witches — a document 
almost unrivalled in interest in this department of inquiry — 
may he found in the Appendix to Mr. PitcairnV Collection 
(iii., 602). A portion of it had been shown to Sir Walter Scott 
before the publication of Mr. Fitcairn's work, and is referred to 
in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. 

VOL. I. T 


Margaret Brodie, in Auldearn, held me up to the 
devil to be baptised of him; and he marked me on 
the shoulder, and sacked out my blood at that 
mark and spouted it on his hand, and sprinkling it 
on my head, said, ' I baptise thee, Janet, in my own 
name. 9 " 

" John Taylor and Janet Breadhead, his wife, 
Ac, and I myself, met in the kirkyard of Nairn, 
and we raised an unchristened child out of its 
grave, and at the end of Bradly's corn-field land, 
just opposite the mill of Nairn, we took the said 
child, with the nails of our fingers and toes, pickets 
of all sorts of grain, and blaids of kail, and hacked 
them all very small together, and put part thereof 
among the muckheaps of Bradly's lands, and thereby 
took away the fruit of his corns, &c, and we parted 
it among two of our covins (covies or companies). 
When we take corn at Lammas, we take but about 
two sheaves when the corns are fall, and two stocks 
of kail or thereby, and that gives us the fruit of the 
corn-land, or kailyard, where they grow." 

" When we go to any house we take meat and 
drink * * * we put besoms in our beds with 
our husbands till we return to them again. We 
were in the Earl of Murray's house in Darnaway, 
and we got enough then, and did eat and drink of 
the best, and brought part with us. We went in 


at the windows. I had a little horse, and would 


name,'* and when any see these straws in a whirl- 

* The editor of these Confessions notices a carious confirma- 
tion froin Aubrey's Miscellanies of this form of northern en- 
chantment. He preserves a tradition how a Lord Duflus, who 
lived near this same Auldearn, while walking in his paternal 
fields was suddenly swept away, and was found in the King of 
France's wine-cellar, with a silver cup in his hand. According 
to the account of the family tutor who wrote to Aubrey, on 
being brought before the king and questioned as to his identity, 
this Scots lord " told his name, his country, and the place of his 
residence; and that on such a day of the month—which proved 
to be the day immediately preceding— being in the fields, he 
heard the noise of a whirlwind, and of voices crying * horse and 
hattock' (this is the word which the fairies are said to use when 
they remove from any place), whereupon he cried ( hobbe and 
hattock' also, and was immediately caught up and transported 
through the air by the fairies to that place. Where, after he 
had drunk heartily he fell asleep, and before he awoke, the rest 
of the company were gone, and had left him in the posture 
wherein he was found. It is said that the king gave him the 
cup which was found in his hand and dismissed him." The 
person who communicated this story to Aubrey had made 
further inquiries in the Duflus family, and found, that "there 
is yet an old silver cup in his lordship's possession still, which 
is called ( the fairy cup,' but has nothing engraven upon it ex- 
cept the arms of the family." The tutor who communicated 
these traditions, had his own story of personal experience to 
tell. It happened when he was a schoolboy at Forres, 
but there is his own authority for the statement, that he was 
" not so young but that he had years and capacity both to ob- 
serve and remember that which fell out" What fell out was 
this: " He and his schoolfellows were, upon a time, whipping 
their tops in the churchyard before the door of the church. 
Though the day was calm, they heard a noise of a wind, and, at 
some distance, saw the small dust begin to arise and turn round; 
which motion continued advancing till it came to the place 



wind and do not sanctify themselves, we may shoot 
them dead at our pleasure. Any that are shot by 
us, their souls go to heaven — but their bodies re- 
main with us, and will fly as horses to us, as small 
as straws." 

" I was in the Downie hills, and got meat there 
from the Queen of Fairy more than I could eat. 
The Queen of Fairy is bravely clothed in white 
linens, and in white and brown cloathes, and the 

where they were. Whereupon they began to bless themselves. 
But one of their number (being, it seems a little more bold and 
confident than his companions) said * horse and hattock with my 
top,' and immediately they saw the top lifted up from the 
ground, but could not see what way it was carried, by reason 
of a cloud of dust which was raised at the same time." From 
the many persons mentioned in such narratives, a hasty reader 
might derive the notion that there have been many witnesses of 
the miracle— while the reality only is, that many people to 
whom it was told are said to have believed it, The miraculous 
elevation of the top reminds one of an old Edinburgh anec- 
dote about the elevation of a much more important article — a 
lawyer's wig. It was in the days when members of the Bar 
lived in the closes of the High-street, that one of them in full 
costume for attendance in the parliament-house, having peeped 
out of his library window to enjoy a stray current of air or a 
sunbeam that had lost its way, felt his wig removing itself from 
his head, and, looking up, beheld it ascending towards the clouds. 
The lawyer being sceptical, desired a solution of the phenomenon, 
and readily found it. Some -children at the window of a floor 
above were amusing themselves too much in the way marked 
out for censure by Hogarth, in letting down a kitten by a long 
string. The animal coming near the wig naturally clutched at 
it. The children seeing this, pulled the kitten hastily back, lest 
they should get into a scrape, and hence the rapid and myste-* 
rious ascent of the wig. 


King of Fairy .is a brave man, well-favoured and 
broadfaced. There were elf-bulls rowting and 
sqoillingup and down there, and affrighted me." 

The belief that a human life might be shortened 
by the melting df a waxen image — as old in litera- 
ture as the days of Ovid, and perhaps much older 
in superstition — was probably never explained in 
so lively a form as in the following morsel of these 
confessions. It would almost seem as if the sor- 
ceress had a ferocious delight in the accuracy with 
which the child was represented, and the consequent 
air of reality in its symbolical torture and destruc- 
tion : 

" Bessie Wilson in Auldearn, and Margaret 
Wilson, &c, and I, made a picture of clay to de- 
stroy the Laird of Park's male children. John 
Taylor brought home the clay in his plaid neuk — 
his wife brake it very small like meal, and sifted it 
with a sieve, and poured in water among it in the 
devil's name, and wrought it very sore like * rye- 
bowt,' and made of it a picture of the laird's sons. 
It had all the parts and marks of a child, such as 
head, nose, hands, foot, mouth, and little lips. It 
wanted no mark of a child, and the hands of it 
folded down by its sides. It was like a ' pou ' or 
a slain grice [sucking-pig]. We laid the face of 
it to the fire till it strakened [shrunk] and a clear 


fire round about it till it was red like a coal. After 
that we would roast it now and then. Each other 
day there would be a piece of it well rosten. The 
Laird of Park's whole male children by it are to 
suffer, if it be not gotten and broken, as well as 
those that are born and dead already. It was still 
put in and taken out of the fire in the devil's 
name. It was hung upon an knag. It is yet in 
John Taylor's house, and it has a cradle of clay 
about it." 

" Elspet Chisholm, &c., and I, went into Alex- 
ander Cumming's lit-house [dye-hou9e] in Auldearn. 
I went in the likeness of a kea [daw], the said Els- 
pet Chisholm was in the shape of a cat. Isabel 
More was a hare, and Maggie Brodie a cat. We 
took a thread of each colour of yarn that was in the 
said Alexander Cumming's lit-vat, and did cast 
three knots on each thread in the devil's name; and 
did put the threads in the vat widdershins* about' 
in the vat in the devil's name, and thereby took 

* Widdershins is a word in perpetual use in witch trials, and 
is still employed in some parts of Scotland, chiefly in refer- 
ence to superstitious legends. It means against the course of 
the sun. The sound at once carries one to the German writer 
and schein or wnne, away from the light or the sun. A root 
common with German words is not a remarkable] thing to note 
about any English or Lowland Scottish tertn. But in this 
instance it is curious, as the word widdershins has no cognates, 
or etymological connexions as they might be called, but is pre- 


the whole strength of the vat away, that it could 
litt nothing but only black, according to the colour 
of the devil, in whose name we took away the 
strength of the right colours that was in the vat." 

An account of the elf-attendants furnished by the 
infernal court to these earthly retainers, is, besides 
its innate vagueness, rendered fragmentary by the 
partial decay of the record. Still, enough remains 
in the fragments carefully dovetailed by the editor 
of the Criminal Trials to give one a more real 
notion of the familiars of the witch class, than it 
would be easy to find elsewhere : 

" Three would meet — but sometimes a covin, 
sometimes more, sometimes less — but a grand meet- 
ing would be about the end of each quarter. There 
is thirteen persons in each covin, and each one of 
us has a spirit to wait upon us when we please to 
call him. I remember not all the spirits' names, 
but there is one called Swein, whilk waits upon the 
said Margaret Wilson in Auldearn. He is still 
clothed in grass green, and the said Margaret has a 
nickname called 'Pickle nearest the wind' The 
next spirit is called * Borie,' who waits upon Bessie 
Wilson in Auldearn; he is still clothed in yellow, 

served with its peculiar application, as a Greek or Hindoo word 
might be. Such a disconnected relic of the common Teutonic 
root would seem, when its meaning is remembered, to be a 
remnant of the times of the old Pagan sun-worship. 


and her nickname is ' Through the corn yard! The 
third spirit is called ' The Roaring Lion,' who waits 
upon Isobel Nicol in Loch Low, and he is still 
clothed in sea green. Her nickname is * Bessie 
Mule* The fourth spirit is called ' Mac Hector, 9 
who waits upon Jean Martin, daughter to the said 
Margaret Wilson. He is a young-like devil, clothed 
still in grass green. Jean Martin is maiden to the 
covin that I am of, and her nickname is ' Over the 
Dyke with it. 9 The name of the fifth spirit is 
'Robert the Rule' and he is still clothed in sad 
dunn, and seems to be a commander of the rest of 
the spirits, and waits upon Margaret Brodie in Aul- 
dearn. The name of the sixth spirit is called ' The 
Thief of Hell wait upon herself 9 and he waits also 
on the said Bessie Wilson. The name of the 
seventh spirit is called the * Red Rieverf and he is 
my own spirit, that waits upon myself, and is 
still clothed in black. The eighth spirit is called 
4 Robert the Jackis 9 still clothed in dunn, and seems 
to be aged. He is ane gleiket gowket spirit. The 
woman's nickname that he waits on is € Able and 
Stout 9 The ninth spirit is called ' Laing, 9 and the 
woman's nickname that he waits upon is ( Bessie 
Bauld! The tenth spirit is called ' Thomas a'Fairie 9 
There will be many other devils waiting upon our 
master devil; but he is bigger and more awful than 


the rest of the devils, and they all fear him. I will * 
ken them all one by one from others when they 
appear like a man." 

" When we raise the wind, we takes a rag of 
cloth and wets it in water, and we takes a beetle* 
and knocks the rag on a stone, and we say thrice 

« < I knock this rag upon this stane, 
To raise the wind in the deril's name, 
It shall not lie until I please again/ 

" When we would lay the wind, we dry the. rag, 
and say thrice over: 

" < We lay the wind in the devil's name, 
-Not to rise till we like to raise it again/ 

And if the wind will not lie instantly, we call upon 
our spirit, and say to him, ' Thief, thief, conjure the 
wind and cause it to lie/ We have no power of 
rain, but we will raise the wind when we please. 
He made us believef # # # that there was no god 
beside him. 

•' As for elf arrow-heads, the devil shape* tlciem 
with his own hands, and then delivers th ¥Wn to A£- 

* This is not to be understood as an animal of Va the • ca ^^ B \L 

' Who •** 

group, but a wooden roller for beating cloth. >re f Iho** ^ .^ 

acquainted with Scottish legal facetue, will rcmd ^neiflto* 1 * v^e 
<T esprit about a litigation concerning a diamiM ota&toe*^ 1 ^{ot 
much of the wit rests on the supposition that >mts,vt *** * ^*w <&** 
beetling of cloth, and must have been one of fiese »& *et? c °* 
meter. yUnter 

f Fragmentary. *h Beer 


/ / 


boys, who whyttes and dightes* them like a packing- 

needle.f # # * Those that dightes them are little 

ones, hollow and bow-backed. They speak gowstie 

like. When the devil gives them to us, he says: 

u ' Shoot these in 1117 name, 

And they shall not go haill name.* 

And when we shoot these arrows, we say, 

" * I shoot yon man in the devil's name; 
He shall not wone haill name; 
And this shall be also true, 
There shall not be ane bit of him liew.'f 

. " We have no bow to shoot with, but spang 
them from the nails of our thumbs. Sometimes we 
will miss — but if they touch, be it beast, man, or 
woman, it will kill, though they had a jack upon 

This account of the elve weapons answers well to 
the little sharp, neat flint darts which are found in 
considerable numbers in the north of Scotland and 
Scandinavia. The northern antiquaries have classi- 
fied the flint weapons, and have followed them by 
an arrangement of the bronze. The flint armory 
of Britain adjusts itself only to a secondary branch 
of this system. We are here inquiring, however, not 
as to these weapons with reference to the time when 

* Cleans, or gir«s the finish— evidently from the same root as 
the German deichm. 
t Some sentences very fragmentary in this part. 
J Life. 


they were used, but as to the condition in which 
they were — no one can tell how many centuries after 
the time of their actual use — when the witches of 
Auldearn were charged with using them. These 
little fiendish-looking weapons are of the true shape 
of the barbed dart, as it may be seen in ancient archi- 
tectural decoration and symbolical sculptures They 
are often finished or " dichted " to perfection, the 
barbs corresponding with each other, and the point 
as sharp as that of a lancet. Their construction by 
the mere operation of chipping, indicates a peculiar 
manual art wrought to high perfection.* 

* If the accounts given of the strange contents of the eve 
near Torquay, called Kent's Hole, are to be entirely reli'xl on, 
it seems to have been a sort of manufactory of flint weapons. 
"Here," says the narrator, "in sinking a foot into the soil we 
came upon flints in all forms, confusedly disseminated through 
the earth, and intermixed with fossil and human bones, the 
whole slightly agglutinated together by calcarious matter de- 
rived from the roof. My collection possesses an example of this 
aggregation in a mass consisting of pebbles, clay, and bone, in 
the midst of which is imbedded a fine blade of flint— all united 
together by a sparry cement. 

"The flints were in all conditions, from the rounded pebble 
as it comes out of the chalk, to the instruments fabricated from 
them, as arrow and spear heads and hatchets. ,. Some of the 
flint blocks were chipped only on one side, such /is had probably 
furnished the axes; others in several faces, representing planes 
corresponding exactly to the long blades foivnd by their side, 
and from which they had been evidently sliced off. Other peb- 
bles, still more angular and clipped at all points, were, no doubt, 
those which yielded the small arrow-heads. T^ese abounded in by 
far the greatest number. Small, irregular splinters, not referrible 
to any of the above divisions, and whifjh seem to have been 



When these beautiful little weapons, made of a 
stone unknown in the district, were turned up by 
the plough, it was not wonderful that the peasantry 
should immediately invest them with a supernatural 
origin and use. Hence they are still known by a 
name which may be found alluded to in the oldest 
Scottish topographical writers, of elfry heads, or elf 
arrow-heads.* There are many traditions of their 
having been found in the bodies of cattle suddenly 
stricken, and still darker rumours of their discovery 
in human victims. When they are found, it is the 
practice ^of the country to hide them carefully, as 
tLeir accessibility to light and air is supposed to put 

struck off in the operation of detaching the latter, not unlike 
the imall chips in a sculptor's shop, were thickly scattered 
through the stuff, indicating that this spot was the workshop 
where the savage prepared his weapons of the chase, taking ad- 
vantage of its cover and the light."— (Account by Mr. McEnery, 
quoted in Wilton* s Archaeology of Scotland, p. 187.) It is worthy 
of remark, that the districts where these arrow-heads are chiefly 
found — such as Aberdeenshire, with its primitive rock—being 
destitute of flint, the article seems to have been imported from 
manufactories in the chalk ranges, like Birmingham or Sheffield 
goods at the present day. 

* See the description of Scotland in Bleau's Atlas, where 
there are accurate representations of these curious weapons. 
Its author does net appear to have abjured supernatural no- 
tions on their origin: " Solo hoc, lapilli hi mirandi, quod casu 
aliquando in agrio, in pubficis tritisque viis reperiantur, nun- 
quam autero investigando inveniantur; hodie fortasse reperias, 
ubi heri nihil, item/ a meridie, ubi horis antemeridianis omnia 
vacua; et haee, ut plurimum, sudo ccelo cestivis diebus." — 
Bleau Theatruin Scotia, p. 105. 


them at the disposal of the fiends who use them. 
It is difficult to conjecture how they can have been 
attached to a shaft, and it is probable that their deadly 
efficacy depended on the slightness of the adhesion, 
so that the barbed flint remained in the wound. 
Their shafts, of course, however attached to them, 
have rotted away many centuries ago. Their ap- 
pearance, therefore, does not indicate how they 
could have been discharged by ordinary human 
means, and favours ideas about supernatural agency. 
It was hence, with a just adaptation to all ap- 
pearances and to the prevailing notions of the die-. 

trict, that the Auldearn witches said they used 
bows, but discharged the deadly weapon by a jerk 
of the thumb. 

So much by way of comment on the application 
of these wild confessions to facts and looal super- 
stitions ; the episode may, perhaps, be a slight re- 
lief from extravagances which are growing mono- 
tonous. At the risk, however, even of tiring the 
reader with absurdities, some more extracts from 
these self-accusers' tales are offered. We leave them 
slaying. The extract whidh follows begins with 
a healing charm; but we fjnd them resting not long 
in the beneficent humour /and returning at intervals 
to the destructive. Th6 narrative introductory of 
the following fragment of a rhynre is so extremely 



broken and scattered, as but barely to indicate that 
the intended charm is of a sanatory character: 

u • He put the blood to the blood till all npstood— 
The lith to the lith tiU all took with; 
Our lady charmed her dearly son 
With her tooth and her tongue. 
And her ten fingers. 
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Haily Gaist.' 

And this we say thrice over, stroaking the sore, 
and it becomes whole. 2ndly. For the bean shaw, 
. or pain in the haunch : * We are here three 
\ maidens charming for the bean*straw.* The man 
>*)f the midle earth, blew beaver, land feaver, maneris 
off stooris, the Lord fieigged the feind with his 
hoiy candles and yeird foot stone.f There she sits, 
and R>ere she is gone — let her never 'come here 
again.' *3rdly. For the fevers we say thrice over: 
1 1 forbid: the quaking fevers, the sea fevers, the land 
fevers, ^rld all the fevers that ever God ordained 
out of th^ head, out of the heart, out of the back, 
out of th<£ sides, out of the knees, out of the thighs 
— from ike points of the fingers to the nibs of the 
toes, out sball the fevers go — some to the hill, some 
to the pass, some to the stone, some to the stock. 

* The disease called in one place bean, or bone shaw, and in 
the other straw, k the sciatica. 

t As these expressions were not intended to be intelligible in 
any language that exists, or did exist, they are given in the 
original spelling. * 


In Saint Peter's name, Saint Paul's name, and all 

the saints in heaven, in the name of the Father, the 

Son, and the Holy Ghost.' 

" And when we took the fruit of the fishes from 

the fishers, we went to the shore before the boat 

could come to it; and we would say upon the shore 

side three several times over: 

" ' The fishers are gone to the sea, 

And they will bring hame fish to me; / 

They will bring them hame intil the boat, / 

But they shall get of them but the smaller sort.' 

So we either steal a fish or buy a fish, or get a fish J 

from them one or ma. And with that we have all 

the fruit of the haill fishes in the boat; and tkfe 

fishes that the fishermen will have themselves 4riHl 

be but froth. / 

" The first voyage that ever I went with* the rest 
of our covins was to the ploughlands, and there we 
shot a man betwixt the plough stilts; and he 
presently fell to the ground upon his nose and his 
mouth; and then the devil gave me an anew and 
caused me to shoot a woman in that field, whilk I 
did, and she fell down dead. 

" In winter, 1660, when M*. Harie Forbes, mi- 
nister of Auldearn} was sick, we ma* aae bag of 
the gall's flesh, and gutts oi toads, pickles of bear 
(barley), pairings of the pails of fagers and toes; 
the liver of a hare and bits of dote We steeped 



this altogether all night, among water all hacked 
through other. And when we put it among the 
water Satan was with us, and learned us the words 
following to say thrice over. They are thus: 

" ' He is lying in his bed— he is lying sick and sore, 

Let him lie intil his bed two months and three days more ; 
Let him lie intil his bed — let him lie intil it sick and sore. 
Let him lie intil his bed months two and three days more; 
He shall lie intil his bed — he shall lie in it sick and sore, 
He shall lie intil his bed two months and three days more.' 

" When we had learned all these words from the 

v devil as said it, we fell all down upon our knees, 

\ with our hair down upon our shoulders and eyes, 

Juid our hands lifted up upon the devil; and said 

the\foresaid words thrice over to the devil, strictly 

against master Harie Forbes." 

The i}ext extract, and it shall be the last, relates to 
metamorphoses — the most prominent and universal 
of all witch superstitions : 

u The dogs will sometimes get some bites of us 
when we are in hares, but will not get us killed. 
When we turn out of a hare's likeness in our own 
shape, we will have the bites, and. rives, and scratts 
in our bodies. When we would be in the shape of 
cats, we did cry, and wraw, and riving, and, as it 
were, whirrinr on one another; and when we come 
to our own sHpes again, we will find the scratts 
and rives in ou skins very sore* 


" When one of us or more is in the shape of 
cats, and meets with any others our neighbours, we 
will say, ' Devil speed thee, go thou with mej and 
immediately they will turn to the shape of an cat 
and go with us. When we will be in the shape of 
crows, we will be larger than ordinary crows, and 
will sit upon branches of trees. We went in the 
shape of rooks to Mr. Robert Donaldson's house — 
the devil and John Taylor and his wife went to the 
kitchen chimney and went down upon the cruik. 
It was about Lammas in 1659; they opened an 
window, and we went all into the house, and got 
beef and drink there." 

It is not wonderful that the cat should be a 
favourite shape of metamorphosis. The silent celerity 
of motion in these domesticated wild beasts, their 
consequent mysterious apparitions and vanishings, 
their assemblages and solemn communings with 
each other; their strange cries, so unpleasantly imi- 
• tative of the human voice in fright or fury; their 
proverbial tenacity of life, which frequently startles 
those who have left them for dead by their re- 
appearance alive; and in general, their strange 
amalgamation of the savage and the domestic ani- 
mal have ever made them objects o interest, as 
the worship of the Egyptians, the kistory of the 
Knights Templars, the charges against the Walden- 

VOL. I. U 


nan sorcerers, and finally the northern witch trials, 
exemplify to us. 

The latest judicial proceedings for witchcraft in 
Scotland have an intimate and ludicrous connexion, 
with the habits of these animals. Aano inflictions 
followed on them, the impression left by them is 
rather in favour of the accuser, who seems, to have 
been so heavily persecuted by troops of unreason- 
able cats, that if he had a particle of superstition in 
his nature ii could not fail to be roused to his rescue. 
These irritations occurred in the year 17185, .at 
Scrabster, in Caithness, and the sufferer was an in- 
dividual named William Montgomery, by trade a 
mason. His account of the matter, when claiming 
judicial protection against the powers of darkness, 
is ridiculous enough, and not unnatural; many 
occupants of houses with small sunny suburban 
patches of garden-ground attached to them, Jwrve 
suffered from similar inflictions. He says r 

44 Your petitioner's house being infested with 
cats these three months by-past — viz;, September, 
October, and November — to that degree that my 
wife was affrighted terribly at the fearful and un- 
natural none in my absence for most of these 
months foresiid at Mey, and sent five several times 
to me to repair home, or else she would leave the 
house and flit to Thurso; and my servant- woman 


was so affrighted fey the said cats that she left 1x17 
service- abruptly befose terra, and would by no 
means serve me longer; and your petitioner having 
returned home, was several nights disturbed by 
these cats, and five of them one night at the fire- 
side where the servant-woman only was, she cried 
out 'the cats- were speaking among themselves;' 
and particularly on Friday, the 28th of November, /'s, 

having got in at a hole in a chest I then saw her,* 


when I watched an opportunity to cut off her head / 

when she put it out at the said hole, and having 
fastened my sword in her neck, which cut her, nor j 
could I hold her; at last, having opened tile ches*„, 
my servant William Geddes, having fixed my dirk 
in her hinder quarter, by whicH stroke sh** was 
fastened to the chest — yet after all she escafjed oat 
of the chest with tfte» dirk in her hinder quarter — 
which continued there till I thought by many 
strokes I had killed her with my sword; and! having 
cast her out dead she could not be found next 
morning, though we* arose early to see what had 
become of her. And further, about four or five 
nights my servant being in bed, cried out, *That 
some of these cats had come Jn on him/ — and 
having wrapped the plaid about the cat I thrust my 

* Meaning a cat. Grammatically, his vengeance would ap- 
pear to be launched against the servant-woman. 






dirk through her belly, and having fixed the dirk 
in the ground, I drove at her head with the back 
of an axe until she was. dead, and being cast out 
could not be found next morning." 

Though Mr. Montgomery's statement is some- 
what incoherent, his measures seem to have been 
energetic. The real marvel of the case, however, 
^ does not come from him, but from the statement of 

a local judge. The lord advocate, Robert Dundas, 
hearing that wonderful discoveries had been made in 
the far north, and apprehensive probably of the re- 
currence of one of the ferocious outbreaks against 
elderly females which had so often disgraced the 
country, desired a special report of the matter, and 
directed the local judge to leave it in the hands of 
the law officers of the crown. The sheriff in his 
report made the following wonderful statement: 

-«• There was no further thought of this affair 
from Pecember; that the representation was not 
given in until the 12th of February last; that one 
Margaret Nin Gilbert, in Owst, living about one 
mile and a half distant from Montgomery's house, 
was seen by some of her neighbours to drop at her 
own door one of her legs from the middle; and she 
being under bad fame before for witchcraft, the leg, 
black and putrified, was brought to me, and imme- 
diately thereafter I ordered her to be apprehended 
and incarcerated." 


But this was not all. The sheriff enclosed a 
document which he called the confession of Nin 
Gilbert, in which there are these statements: 

" Being interrogated if ever there was any com- 
pact between her and the devil, confessed that as 
she was travelling some long time byegone in an 
evening, the devil met with her by the way in like- 
ness of a man,, and engaged her to take an oath with 
him, which she consented to ; and that she said she 
knew him to be the devil ere he parted with her. 
On being interrogated if ever the devil appeared 
afterwards to her, confessed that sometimes he ap- 
peared afterwards in the likeness of a great black 
horse, and other times riding oh a black horse, ajid 
that he appeared sometimes in the likeness of a 
black cloud, and sometimes of a black hen. Being 
interrogated if she was in the house of William 
Montgomery, mason, in the burnside of Scr^bster, 
especially on that night, &e., when that house was 
dreadfully infested with several q*ts, to that de- 
gree that W. M. foresaid was obliged to use sword, 
dirk, and axe in beating and fraying av/ a y these 
cats, answered that she was bodily present there, 
and that the said M. had broke her leg either 
by the dirk or axe, which leg sincfe has fallen 
off from, the other part of her body; and that she 
was in the likeness of a feltered cat night foresaid 




in the said house: and that Margaret Olsone was 
then in the likeness of a cat also, who being stronger 
than she, did cast her on Montgomery's dirk, when 
her leg was broken." * 

It is satisfactory .to know, that if the local autho- 
rities were in their zeal eager to institute criminal 
proceedings in this instance, they were checked by 
the interference of the crown lawyers. 

The reader is now, perhaps, possessed of a suf- 
ficient quantity of characteristic scenery from the 
Scottish trials for withcraft. It is difficult to say 
what they teach. They must be left almost as they 
are found, a mass of wild incoherences, incapable 
of being classified and arranged. Their occasional 
picturesque darkness, and accompaniments of the 
ludicrously horrible, are not the creation of vivid 
imaginations revelling in eccentricity. Even in the 
midst of the most grotesque confession, something 
comee forth more indicative of the habitual thoughts 
of an aged female than of the proper poetical attri- 
butes pf a demon. We may feel an imaginary thrill 
when the power of darkness appears as a black 
horse, as a dark forbidding man of giant frame, 
or as a cloud; but certainly he drops all his -tangible 
attributes \vhen he assumes the respectable appear- 

* Kirkpatricfc Sharpe's Preface to Law's Memorials, p. 100 


anoe of a hen. We may experience some recoil- 
ing yet interested sensations in reading of the 
metamorphoses into beasts; but -when their object ia 
a design to purloin bottles of beer, beef, and legs of 
roast mutton, the* mind passes at once from the ideal 
to the real. Perhaps, in the remarks now to be 
offered, may be found to some extent the secret 
why theBe accusations and confessions possess a 
certain fund of picturesqueness mixed with their 

It is a startling fact, and one which ought to be 
boldly dealt with, that the most wonderful of these 
supernatural statements are to be found, not in mere 
accusations, but in confessions. To those who hold 
them to be genuine spontaneous confessions of 
things that really occurred, there is, -of course, no- 
thing more to be said. But it is a matter on which 
the sceptical reader, who cannot reject the confes- 
sions as entirely either forgeries or hallucinations, 
may have his difficulty, and he will only find a 
solution of it in the horrible influence of torture. 
From the time when King James took up this 
subject, and wrote a book intended to justify his 
reputation as the Solomon of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, downwards, the lawyers and clergy became 
imbued with the understanding of certain doc- 
trinal characteristics of witchcraft, which they 
had found in Del Rio, Sprenger, and the other 


scientific authorities on the forbidden art. When 
they found a witch, they believed that she acted 
according to the method laid down by these autho- 
rities, just as a student of medicine, when he satisfies 
himself of the existence of typhus or scarlatina, 
believes that it will develop the symptoms set forth 
by the professor of Nosology. To a narrative, there- 
fore, of circumstances corresponding with these 
doctrines, confession was demanded, and, under the 
influence of torture, yielded/ It was surely not to 
be anticipated that people of the class and character 
of these unfortunates could preserve their constancy 

* Those who would have the prototypes of a great portion of 
the confessions of the Auldearn witches, may consult Reginald 
Scott's eight chapters, which he writes with reluctance, and 
does not particularly recommend for perusal; Del Bio, Disquisi- 
tiones Magic©, p. 74 ; Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum, p. 256-7, 
a little thick duodecimo volume, which is a complete ency- 
clopaedia of diablery, and has the name Magica de Spectris, et 
Apparitionibus Spirituum (Leyden, 1656); Dialogue de la 
Lycanthropie; Histoire veritable et memorable de ce qui c'est 
passe* sur l'Exorcisme de trois Filles possedees (Paris 1623). 
To these may be added the more recent Amber Witch, evidently 
the production of a person well read in this sort of lore. The 
Incubus, well known to all who have read books on diablery, 
is painfully conspicuous in these Scottish trials. They repeat 
frequently a physiological peculiarity of the Evil One in a certain 
frigiditas, which is not in accordance with popular notions of his 
dwelling-place, but is in entire and striking coincidence with 
what is laid down in the authorities above referred to. If Mr. 
Montgomery had read such books, he would have found his 
conflict with the cats prefigured in the little book called Magica, 
&c, where the conclusion of the onslaught on the cats is " quad 
postea in fseminas versse, gravia vulnera compertas sunt acce- 
pisse." P. 292. 


through inflictions which sometimes broke down 
the firmest minds embarked in the holiest cause, 
and forced apostacy on the most enthusiastic cham- 
pions of religious faith. When even a few among 
the men of strong enthusiasm and lofty purpose, 
whose fate is inscribed in the martyrology, could be 
so borne down, is it wonderful that aged females of 
questionable character, and a. few recluse men who 
had frightened themselves by the unexpected results 
of rash chemical experiments, should nearly all yield? 
The tortures inflicted on Urban Grandier, in the vain 
attempt to extract a confession of sorcery, rendered 
him who endured them illustrious for his undaunted 
courage; but Grandier had in view the influence 
of his order — his spotless fame as a priest — the love 
of truth — and, by his own account, the danger of 
passing to judgment with a falsehood on his tongue : 
he had last and not least the proud satisfaction of 
baffling the cruel enemies who had vowed that they 
should find the means of condemning him from his 
own lips. One less resolute would, in the moment 
when the overwrought spirit was flickering for 
release, have faintly assented to the whole horrible 
tale put together by his persecutors, and thus have 
left, as the Scottish witches have, a distinct narrative 
of diabolical experiences, to puzzle philosophers with 
a psychological mystery. 


The inflictions on many of the Scottish victims 
were sometimes no less horrible than those borne fey 
Grandier; and, in one or two instances, they were 
endured with a firmness nearly as great. The 
return to Scotland of King James with his Danish 
bride, was an occasion for a series of aocosstiara, 
followed up by the most Tefined tortures. Of his 
romantic journey, so little in accordance with his 
usual character, the king was extremely proud; and 
lie did not deem it at all wonderful that the 
powers of darknesB should adopt the occasion fcr 
endeavouring to strike a blow at his sacred person. 
Though usually a good-natured man, his intense 
selfishness and vanity made him hard, relentless, 
and savage towards those who gave themselves up 
to the awful crime of plotting against their anointed 
king; and the criminal records of Scotland are 
marked by many dark traces of his sanguinary 
vindictiveness. The present instance, too, wbbml 
excellent opportunity for exercising his marveUaau 
acuteness in the discovery of deep mysteries, aawl 
with the aid of the boots and the «ord he did 
succeed irr divulging a strange history, A certain 
•Geiles Duncan was Tumoured to have been present 
at a great sabbath of witches in the church of 
North Berwic, when Satan presided in *tbe pulpit 
It was said that they had gone there "to the num- 


ber of 200, and that they all Trent together to sea, 
each one in a riddle or sieve— and that they all 
went into the same very substantially with flagons 
of wines, making merry and drinking by the way 
in the same riddles or sieves to the kirk of North 
Berwic^ Geiles played upon a trump, or jews- 
harp; and a contemporary says, that " these con- 
fessions made the king in a wonderful admiration, 
and sent for the said Geiles Duncan, who, upon the 
like trump, did play the said dance before the king's 
majesty, who, in respect of the strangeness of these 
matters, took great delight to be present at their 

This Geiles Duncan had been brought to con- 
fession by torture in the pilliwinkies or pilniwin- 
kies, a species of thumb-screw — " and binding or 
wrenching her head with a cord or rope." The 
inquisitors did not, of course, attribute the con- 
fession to the torture, but to their discovery during 
its infliction of the devil's marks on her body, 
" which, being found, she confessed that all her 
doings was done by the wicked allurements and 
enticements of the devil, and that she did them by 
witchcraft." Agnes Sampson was subjected to the 
same torture, and with exactly the same result. It 

* Newes from Scotland. A true Discourse of the Apprehen- 
sion of sundry Witches. 


is observable that these women, wheif they found 
that the king took so intense an interest in the 
matter of their accusation as personally to examine 
them, became extremely communicative, and mixed 
up their relations with some judicious flattery — 
such as, that the reason why the devil so hated the 
king was, because his majesty was the greatest 
enemy he had in the world ; but the royal heart 
was too entirely petrified to be softened even with 
this skilful solvent. 

We have more full particulars of the infliction of 
torture on a male wizard named Fian, who acted as 
registrar to the gang. The inquisitors began " by 
thrawing of his head with a rope, whereat he would 
confess nothing. Secondly, he was persuaded by 
fair means to confess his follies, but that would 
prevail as little. Lastly, he was put to the most 
severe and cruel pain in the world, called the boots; 
who, after he had received three strokes, being in- 
quired if he would confess his damnable acts and 
wicked life, his tongue would not serve him to 
speak." This was attributed to certain charmed 
pins ; and when they were removed, the doctor, in 
the king's presence, subscribed his confession. 

The doctor seems, like the females, to have ex- 
pected grace of his sovereign, but, finding that he 
had no chance for life, he made his escape. On 


being recaptured he denied everything, " notwith- 
standing that his own confession appeareth remain- 
ing in record under his own handwriting, and the 
same thereunto fixed, in the presence of the king's 
majesty and sundry of his council — yet did he 
utterly deny the same." 

Next follows a horrible description, which we 
take from the curious pamphlet already cited. It 
was printed as a justification of the king, or rather 
an eulogy on him, for his conduct on the important 

" Whereupon the king's majesty, perceiving his 
stubborn wickedness, conceived and imagined that 
in the time of his absence he had entered into new 
conference and league with the devil his master ; 
and that he had been again newly marked, for the 
which he was narrowly searched; but it could not 
in any way be found. Yet for more trial of him 
to make him confess, he was commanded to have 
a most strange torment, which was done in the 
manner following. His nails upon all his fingers 
were riven and pulled off with an instrument called 
in Scottish a turkas, which in England we call a 
pair of pincers; and under every nail there was 
thrust in two needles over even up to the heads. 
At all which torments notwithstanding, the doctor 
never shrunk any whit ; neither would he then 



confess it the sooner for all the tortures inflicted 
upon him. Then was he with all convenient speed 
by commandment conveyed again to the torment 
of the boots, wherein he continued a long time, 
.and did abide so many blows in them, that his legs 
were crushed and beaten together as small as might 
be; and the bones and flesh so bruised that the blood 
and marrow spouted forth in great abundance, 
whereby they were made unserviceable for ever. 
And, notwithstanding all these grievous pains and 
cruel torments, he would not confess anything; 
so deeply had die devil entered into his heart, 
that he utterly denied that which he before 
avouched ; and would say nothing thereunto but 
this, that what he had done and said before was 
only done and said for fear of pains which he had 

Aleson Balfour's execution, in 1594 r would have 
passed unnoticed in the crowd r but that her con- 
fessions were adduced in evidence against the mas- 
ter of Orkney, for- attempting to kill his brother 
by witchcraft and poison. She made her confession 
after forty-eight hours of the " vehement torture 
of the caschiel&ws." This instrument ia supposed 
to have been an. iron, boot, heated gradually by a 
movable chafer; but we shall see that a prisoner 
was sometimes kept for several days under the 



operation, and we may presume that it was rather 
an instrument of constraint than of active infliction. 
Afesan's* age was not mentioned, but she may be 
supposed to have passed the most robust period of 
Hfe, since her husband, by profession a tailor, was 
eighty-one years old* The treatment of this family 
was a terrible refinement of cruelty. Her old 
husband, " together with her eldest son: and her 
daughter r were all kept at once and at the same 
instant in ward beside her, and put to tortures at 
the same instant time; the father being in the long 
irons of fifty stone weight; the son galled in the 
boots with fifty-seven strokes ; m<J the daughter, 
being seven years old, put in the pilniwinkies — to 
this effect, that her said husband and bairns being 
so tormented beside her, might move her to make 
any confession for their relief!" So* say the plead- 
ings recorded in the trial of the master of Sinclair.* 
We are then told as to the confession made by 
another accomplice,ThomasPalpa, thus: " The same 
was in like manner extoated of him, he being kept 
Bathe casehielawa eleven, days and eleven nights; 
twice in the day by the space of fourteen days 
galled in the boots — he. being naked in the mean 
time and scourged with tows (or ropes) in such 
sort that they left neither 'flesh nor hide on him — 
* FHcalrn, i, 376. • 


in the extremity of which torture the said pre- 
tended confession was drawn out of him." 

The confessions so extorted were adduced as evi- 
dence against the master of Orkney, and he was 
acquitted, his counsel scornfully directing attention 
to the cruelties which produced them. But they had 
been in the mean time fatally efficacious against the 
poor people who had uttered them. Aleson Bal- 
four, however, showed spirit and courage at the clos- 
ing scene. At the heading hill in Kirkwall, where 
she was taken to be burned, she made a last solemn 
declaration, and found a notary-public courageous 
enough to attest it. " She declared and took upon 
her soul and conscience, as she would answer at the 
day of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts 
shall be disclosed, that she was as innocent, and 
would die as innocent, of any point of witchcraft 
as a bairn new born ;" and being asked by the 
parson of Ropher how she had been induced to 
make confession in the castle of Kirkwall, she 
answered i " That the time of her first deposition 
she was tortured divers and several times in th$ 
caschielaws, and sundry times taken out of them 
dead and out of all remembrance either of good 
or evil. As likewise her goodman being in the 
stocks, her son tortured in the boots, and her 
daughter put in the pilniwinkies, where-through 


she and they were so vexed and tormented, that 
partly to eschew a greater torment and punishment, 
and upon promise of her life and good deed by the 
said parson, falsely against her soul and conscience 
she made that confession, and not otherwise, for the 
whilk she asked the Lord mercy and forgiveness." 
She was put to death, adhering " constantly" to 
this statement; and, though her firmness did not 
avert her own fate, when it was found to bear on 
that of the scion of a noble house, it was allowed 
its full influence. 

Such are a few specimens of the manner in which 
the marvellous confessions of the witches were ex- 
tracted.* The subject is not so pleasing as to invite 
one to further elucidation. If there be any who, 
after such instances as these, hold that the long and 
minute confessions of these poor creatures, as they 
are now recorded, were actually uttered by them, 
whether from the influence of diseased imagination, 

* Among some sensible and humane remarks on witchcraft 
confessions, by Sir George Mackenzie — who has not always 
enjoyed a reputation for humanity — the following passage, 
coming from the head of the criminal prosecution department, 
in the time of witch trials, is very instructive: " Most of these 
poor creatures are tortured by their keepers, who, being per- 
suaded they do God good service, think it their duty to vex 
and torment poor prisoners; and I know, ex ceriissimd acientid, 
that most of all that ever were taken, were tormented after this 
manner; and this usage was the ground of all their confession." 
— Laws and Customs in Matters Criminal, p. 87. 

VOL. I. X 


or as a faithful record of events which took place, 
he must be left in his opinion — it would be useless 
to attempt to influence it by evidence. 

A glance over the history of this melancholy 
subject, shows that in Scotland, as in other countries, 
these witch panics, with their consequent tortures 
and slaughters, came in great pulsations. In con- 
necting them' with historical events, we find, in the 
first place, that so far as our records bear, they fol- 
lowed the Reformation. It might be inferred from 
this, that there is a. certain amount of latent super- 
stition in the half-civilised mind ; and that if it is not 
led into comparatively safe channels by persons of 
knowledge and authority, it stagnates, and, accumu- 
lating, breaks its bounds in a destructive torrent. 
On a general aspect of the case, such a view seems 
plausible. But it would need support from a fuller 
knowledge than we possess ere it could be finally 
adopted. We have not readily the means of know- 
ing to what extent ecclesiastical proceedings were 
carried out in earlier times, while, in the later, the 
records of our criminal courts afford us ample know- 
ledge. The monkish annalists of Scotland amplify 
their fabulous narratives with frequent tales of witch- 
craft, showing it to be in their own time a common 
belief; as, for instance, when they tell us how the 
life of King DufiUs was attempted by the melting 


of a wax image, and record the incidents in the 
history of Macbeth.* We know, also, that if prose- 
cutions for witchcraft were rare in Scotland during 
Catholicism, they were abundant in other lands. 

The multitude, however, of these persecutions 
during the first century and a half after the Refor- 
mation, is certainly a scandal pretty equally distri- 
buted over all the Protestant bodies. If Puritanism 
took the sway in New England and some other 
places, the most violent inflictions in Scotland came 
from the two monarchs who were the chief oppo- 
nents of Puritanism — James VI. and Charles II. 
The period least signalised by so unhappy a cha- 
racteristic was that of the Protectorate. The 
Cavaliers would say that the great demon had put 
down all the small ones. Cromwell had a mind 
certainly sufficiently under spiritual impressions, but 
here, as in other matters, we see the wonderful wis- 
dom with which be conducted the practical business 
of this world, however much he might have another 
in his thoughts. It was his business, with a stern 
and strong hand, to restrain all useless persecution. 
Terrible and remorseless as he was when cutting 
down the crop of Irish Papists, that he might plant 
the land with what he deemed a better seed, he was 

• The history of the origin of Macbeth, as described by 
Wyntoun, is an application of the Doctrine of the Incubus. 


never cruel without a definite object* nor would he 
permit cruelty in others, unless it aided his own 
projects. Thus, unless it could be shown that the 
state was to be disturbed by them, hallucinations 
might have their free course, people might see visions 
and dream dreams, and old women might ride on 
broomsticks or go to sea in sieves. He required to 
see some more substantial evil ere he considered it a 
dignus vindice nodus. 

How much greater was his wisdom than that of 
his witty and learned contemporary, Selden, who, 
with a mocking half-credulity, says, " The law 
against witches does not prove there be any; but it 
punishes the malice of those people that use such 
means to take away men's lives. If one should pro- 
fess that, by turning his hat thrice and crying buz, 
he could take away a man's life, though, in truth, 
he could do no such thing; yet this were a just law 
made by the state, that whoever should turn his hat 
thrice, and cry buz, with an inclination to take away 
a man's life, shall be put to death."* Cromwell 
thought and did far otherwise. Men might whirl 
their hats and cry buz until they were tired, ere he 
meddled with them — and the consequence was that 
they did tire. 

A belief in witchcraft lingered for a considerable 
♦ Table Talk. 

[J J 


time among the educated classes in Scotland. " The 
last execution of a Scottish witch," says Mr. Kirk- 
patrick Sharpe, " took place in Sutherland, a.d. 
1722, the sentence having been pronounced by the 
sheriff depute Colonel David Ross, of Little Dean. 
The old woman belonged to the parish of Loth, and, 
among other crimes, was accused of having ridden 
upon her own daughter, transformed into a pony 
and shod by the devil, which made the girl ever 
after lame both in hands and feet, a misfortune en- 
tailed upon her son, who was alive of late years. 
The grandmother was executed at Doroch ; and it 
is said that, after being brought out to execution, 
the weather proving very severe, she sat composedly 
warming herself by the fire prepared to consume 
her, while the other instruments of death were 
making ready."* 

The penal statutes against witchcraft were re- 
pealed in 1 736. In 1743, the Associate Presbytery, 
the predecessors of an ecclesiastical body which at 
this day embraces a large portion of the educated 
community of Scotland, in an act for the renewal 
of the covenant, enumerate, among other national 
sins, that " The penal statutes against witches have 
been repealed by the parliament, contrary to the 
express law of God; for which a holy God may be 
* Preface to Lawe's Memorials, p. 107. 

VOL. I. Y 


provoked in a way of righteous judgment, to leave 
those who are already ensnared to be hardened more 
and more; and to permit Satan to tempt and seduce 
others to the same wicked and dangerous snare/' 
This may be held as the latest public and authori- 
tative announcement in Scotland that there exists 
a crime called Witchcraft, which ought to be sup- 
pressed by punishment. 












no circums 
ti the Bu!' 1